Immigration contributes to Australian population growth

02 January 2013


Australia's population grew by 1.6% or 359,600 people in the year to the end of June 2012. 58% of that rise was caused by immigration. The population reached 22.7m in July, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Last year, the Australian population grew by only 1.14%. This coincided with a period when levels of immigration were lower than normal. In 2009, the Australian government curbed immigration in response to the global economic slowdown.

Now that the immigration rate has gone up, Australian population growth is outstripping that in other developed countries. Canada experienced a 1% growth in population over the same period. The US population rose by 0.9%, the UK's by 0.6% and France's by 0.5%.

Net immigration caused the population to rise by about 208,000 in the year to June 2012. There were some 472,000 arrivals and 264,000 departures. The net immigration figure increased by 22% from 2011 when the net immigration figure was only 170,000. Natural population growth, caused by a greater level of births than of deaths, caused a rise of only about 151,500; there were 298,000 births and 145,500 deaths.

Strong growth in 457 visas

Net immigration figures include temporary migrants who travel to Australia to work on temporary work visas such as 457 visas providing they stay in the country for over 12 months. There was strong growth in the number of international workers coming to Australia with temporary work visas (known as '457 visas'). The number of 457 visas granted rose by 26.6% in the year to July. 457 visas entitle their holders to live and work in Australia for up to 4 years. The greatest number of 457 visas was issued to construction workers though many also went to resources industry workers.

The greatest percentage rise in population occurred in Western Australia where the population grew by 78,000 or 3.3%. Western Australia is home to much of Australia's resources industry. There were also significant rises in population in Victoria (89,000), Queensland (86,000) and New South Wales (79,000).

Gareth Aird, an economist with the Commonwealth Bank, told journalists that the growth in the number of 457 visas 'reflect[ed] a relatively strong labour market by international standards and the strong Aussie dollar'. Mr Aird explained that a strong dollar increases the attractiveness of working in Australia for immigrants, particularly temporary immigrants, because it increases the real value of their wages outside Australia.

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