Australian population growth slowed by pandemic

Bondi Beach in Sydney 

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to Australian population growth which will take decades to recover, demographers believe. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, net overseas migration – which accounts for about 60% of the country’s population growth --  is set to collapse from 154,000 in last financial year to just 31,000 in 2020-21.

But natural population increase – births minus deaths – is also slowing. Figures issued by the Bureau of Statistics this week indicate that in March Australia had its smallest natural increase in 14 years.

New forecasts suggest that the fertility rate will drop to an all-time low of 1.59 during this financial year, recover in 2024 but then continue to drop to a little over 1.6 by the end of the decade.

"The COVID outbreak is going to cause a ripple that will be felt for years," says demographer Liz Allen, of Australian National University. "We're in deep strife. Children are indeed our future. They're our future taxpayers. Policies already favour older Australians. Lower fertility [and reduced migration] means as a community we're going to get older and that will just mean more policy support for older people at the expense of younger people.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge


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