What’s driving population growth in Australia’s cities?

For the first time on record, Sydney’s population grew by more than 100,000 people in one year, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Sydney’s population hit 5.1 million at June 2017, an increase of 101,600 people (2 per cent) since June 2016.

But it was Melbourne that recorded the largest – and fastest growth – of Australia’s capital cities in 2016-17, increasing by 125,400 (2.7 per cent) to reach 4.9 million.

Together, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane accounted for over 70 per cent of Australia’s population growth in 2016-17.

Darwin, Adelaide and Perth on the other hand experienced relatively low rates of population growth, each at 1 per cent or less.

ABS Demography Director Anthony Grubb said that the latest population estimates were the first to include data on the components driving population change in Australia's capital cities and regions – natural increase (births minus deaths), internal and overseas migration.

“It is now possible to not only see how much population is changing in an area, but to understand why this change is occurring,” he said.

In Melbourne, net overseas migration was the major contributor to population growth, adding 80,000 people in 2016-17 (64 per cent of total population change). Natural increase contributed 29 per cent, while net internal migration accounted for 7.3 per cent of population growth.

Net overseas migration was also the major contributor to Sydney's population growth (84,700 people) although, unlike Melbourne, the Harbour City experienced a net internal migration loss (-18,100 people) in 2016-17, meaning more people left Sydney for other parts of Australia than arrived. Sydney lost most people to other parts of New South Wales (40,000 people) and Melbourne (14, 400).

In Brisbane and Hobart, the relative contribution of each component of population change was more even, while in Perth and the Australian Capital Territory, natural increase was the major contributor to growth.

In Adelaide and Darwin, population gains from natural increase were offset by net internal migration losses, so growth in both cities corresponded closely to the gains from net overseas migration.

Further details can be found in Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016-17 (cat. no. 3218.0) available for download from the ABS website.