Net interstate migration to Qld by age group – evidence of brain drain?

Over the ten years to 2017, Queensland gained residents via interstate migration across all age groups, but it gained far fewer people in net terms in their twenties than you might expect (see chart below based on the relevant ABS.Stat data set). This could be related to Queensland not being as attractive a place as NSW or Victoria for young people to start their careers, which is reflected in the 20 to 29 year age group making an under-sized contribution to total net interstate migration (i.e. permanent arrivals to Queensland from interstate less departures interstate from Queensland).


The issue of brain drain was raised in a comment by regular reader Mike regarding my post last week on Queensland’s higher-than-national-average unemployment rate. Queensland’s very low rate of net interstate migration among 20 to 29 year olds is associated with many young Queenslanders leaving for graduate and early career opportunities interstate, offsetting interstate arrivals to Queensland in this age group to a large extent. Certainly, the rate of departure interstate of 20 to 29 year old Queenslanders is higher than for their peers in NSW and Victoria, who benefit from a wider variety of graduate and entry-level career opportunities in their own states and have less incentive to migrate (see chart below). I should note the difference between the departure rates for Queensland and the southern states has trended down over time, possibly reflecting some improvement in career opportunities for young people in Queensland over the last two decades.

NIMplot_Qld_NSW_Vic_departuresIn the five years to 2017, Queensland actually experienced a net loss of around 1,400 people in 20 to 29 year age group via interstate migration (see chart below), which I suspect was associated with the end of the mining investment boom and public service staff cuts, as well as lacklustre economic conditions more generally.


Breaking it down further, the net loss of 20 to 29 year olds over the five years 2013 to 2017 appears largely related to increased departures of 25 to 29 year olds during this period (see chart below). There was a net loss of around 3,100 25 to 29 year olds over this period, which was partly offset by a net gain of around 1,800 20 to 24 year olds.


Since 2017, Queensland is no longer losing people in their twenties in net terms via interstate migration, but their contribution (1,300 people) to total net interstate migration (around 22,500 people) in 2017 remains much smaller than you would expect (see chart below).


Finally, I’d like to refer readers to an excellent post on interstate migration from Ross Elliott earlier this year:

Net interstate migration to Qld is on the rise: Does this mean we are about to boom?

In this post, Ross makes the point that rates of interstate migration to Queensland are still much lower than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. You can see this across all age groups from the late 1990s in the facet plot below which I’ve produced based on the data set I’ve analysed for this post.


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5 Responses to Net interstate migration to Qld by age group – evidence of brain drain?

  1. Wade says:

    Counterpoint to this is the higher net migration from 30 years onwards. So our graduates are heading south for ‘training and establishment’ and then returning home for lifestyle and child bearing and as a result spending a lot more money and making a much greater financial contribution here than they did in the short interstate migration? Must be a good thing. Brain drain in reverse?

  2. Russell says:

    I was reading an article on migration issues in Germany and particularly Berlin. The takeaway was that as more foreign immigrants with a significant different cultural background moved into the lower socioeconomic parts of Berlin the original inhabitants moved out to higher socioeconomic areas. Areas that retained their cultural heritage and felt safer. I would suggest that we may see that here but on a capital city basis. Sydney and Melbourne are the main foreign immigration destination and far less in SE QLD. So I suggest we will see increasing numbers. White flight is a term I have heard used. I know this is probably not a PC post but I feel it will be increasingly relevant as parts of Australia become less palatable to some segments of the population.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks for the comment Russell. Very interesting forecast. I expect the current level of immigration, particularly given the challenges it is creating for our governments in infrastructure provision and our society more broadly, will continue to be a major issue in the lead up to the federal election.

  3. Martin says:

    Similar to Wade’s point, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the age distribution being driven not just by career opportunities, but by the inclination of young adults to gravitate to larger cities because the amenities on offer suit them. I’m assuming that younger adults put a premium on nightlife and international events that are offered by larger cities, and discount their downsides, like dwelling size and other forms of congestion.

    Conversely, people with young families put a premium on more affordable housing and “lifestyle” (read: outdoor lifestyle and a shorter commute).

    That is, do people move to and from Queensland due more to the way-of-life or for financial considerations?

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