Australia recorded a decline in its overseas-born population for the first time in over 20 years.
According to a report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australia’s estimated migrant population dropped to 29.1 per cent (7.5 million immigrants) in 2021, down from the 29.8 per cent (7.7 million immigrants) recorded in 2020.
The report also cites the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting border closures and travel restrictions as the leading causes behind the first decline in Australia’s migrant population for the first time since the year 2000.
Jennifer Dobak, ABS head of migration statistics, said Covid-19 travel restrictions resulted in reduced overseas migration in and out of Australia, leading to Australia’s migrant population decreasing for the first time in more than two decades.
She also said the pandemic changed the travel and migration intentions of many people, including those who were planning to move to Australia for work or study.
Ms Dobak revealed Australia’s population increased by 45,000 from June 2020 to June 2021, but the overseas-born resident population declined.
She also revealed fewer migrants moved to Australia during the first year of the pandemic, and fewer Australians departed to live overseas.
Dr Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University, claimed the fall in Australia’s migrant population was concerning, as it made the country “older, whiter and smaller than expected.”
She said the decrease in the migrant population also spells trouble in the form of a lack of workforce depth, as Australia is heavily reliant on net overseas migration for its workforce.
Dr Allen also urged the government to boost migration from untapped source countries.
The report showed the largest group of overseas-born residents living in Australia originated from England (967,000 people), followed by India (710,000 people) and China (595,000).
Australia’s top ten overseas-born population by country of birth recorded for 2021 include:
- England – 967,000 people;
- India – 710,000 people;
- China – 595,000 people;
- New Zealand – 559,000 people;
- Philippines – 310,000 people;
- Vietnam – 268,000 people;
- South Africa – 201,000 people;
- Malaysia – 172,000 people;
- Italy – 171,000 people; and
- Sri Lanka – 145,000 people.
Most of Australia’s migrant population from South East Asia are in their 30s and at the height of their productive years, while migrant groups such as Italians and Greeks are in their late 70s or even early 80s.
In 2020, Australia ranked ninth in the world for its total migrant resident population.