Migration boom swells Australia

Released on: February 21, 2008, 1:38 am

Press Release Author: - Jessica Irvine, smh.com.au

Industry: Internet & Online

Press Release Summary: AUSTRALIA\'S population is growing at its fastest rate in
nearly two decades, thanks to rising fertility rates and an immigration boom bigger
than that during the aftermath of both world wars.

Press Release Body: AUSTRALIA\'S population is growing at its fastest rate in nearly
two decades, thanks to rising fertility rates and an immigration boom bigger than
that during the aftermath of both world wars.

The number of Australians grew by 1.5 per cent, or 315,700 people, over the year to
June 30, topping 21 million for the first time.

Australia now ranks above the world average for population growth of 1.2 per cent,
and only just behind the rapidly expanding Indian population, which is growing by
1.6 per cent and expected to overtake China by 2050 as the most populous country.

Of the two possible sources of population growth - immigration and natural increase
- it is immigration that is driving the population surge.

A record net 177,600 people migrated to Australia last financial year - arrivals
minus the people who left - busting a previous record of 172,900 set in the
Bicentennial year of 1988.

This also exceeds the huge net influx of migrants that occurred in the aftermath of
both world wars, which was 166,303 in 1919 and 149,507 in 1950.

The chief economist at CommSec, Craig James, said immigrants were being attracted by
Australia\'s booming job market.

\"With skilled workers in short supply, businesses have been ...seeking staff
overseas, and it\'s clear that migrants have responded in droves,\" Mr James said.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the boom state of Western Australia, which
clocked the fastest population growth of any state at 2.3 per cent.

NSW, by contrast, continues to bleed people to other states, resulting in a
lacklustre growth rate of 1.1 per cent.

NSW suffered the biggest net loss of people to other states at 27,333 people last
financial year.

The booming economy also appears to have given Australians a renewed confidence to
have babies. After a slump in fertility to a record low of 1.72 births per woman in
2003, the fertility rate has risen steadily to 1.85, the highest in 14 years.

Once again, Western Australia led the way, recording the highest fertility rate for
the mainland, excluding territories - 1.98 births per woman.

NSW\'s fertility rate was in line with the national average at 1.86.

The surging population has raised questions about whether enough housing is being
built to accommodate new citizens.

Building approval figures released yesterday show that in the year ended October,
154,623 dwelling units were approved to be built. This is below economist\'s
estimates of underlying demand of 175,000 a year.

In NSW just 29,621 new dwellings were approved, compared to an annual net influx of
about 71,900 people.

So long as higher demand fails to be met by increased housing supply, this will add
further pressure on house prices and rents.

A senior economist at Commonwealth Bank, Michael Workman, predicted rents would
continue to rise, with population growth a major contributor.

\"Population growth is likely to remain quite firm as the Federal Government responds
to strong demand from the business sector for skilled and professional staff. The
jobs markets need more people.\"

- Jessica Irvine, smh.com.au

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