Qld population growth and interstate migration gains in perspective

There is much excitement about Queensland having the highest population growth in Australia at the moment (e.g. see the Courier-Mail report ‘Once in a generation boom’ SEQ investment hits $60 billion), although, of course, population growth rates in Queensland and across Australia have fallen during the pandemic. The population growth rate just hasn’t fallen as much in Queensland as in other states. According to the ABS’s latest population estimates, Queensland recorded 0.9% population growth through-the-year to 31 March, compared with 0.1% growth nationwide and in NSW, and a fall of 0.6% in Victoria (see chart below). 

Note: c.o.p. stands for change over the period, in this case 12 months. 

As expected, more people are leaving Victoria (aka Danistan) and fewer people are moving there. So large negative net overseas and net interstate migration flows have given it negative population growth (see the handy chart from the ABS below). Victoria probably had such a massive loss of people via net overseas migration because of all the time it spent in lockdown last year, during which time fewer Australians would have wanted to have returned there and many foreigners living in Victoria would have wanted to get out.   

While it could be considered a good sign that Queensland recorded the highest population growth in Australia in the 12-months to 31 March, population growth was much lower than normal. Net interstate migration to Queensland was high compared with recent years, but not relative to historical peaks (see the chart below). Net interstate migration was around 31,000 people in the year to 31 March, with Queensland absorbing the vast majority of the 36,000 people lost by NSW and Victoria, but net interstate migration to Queensland got up to around 50,000 per year in the late eighties and early nineties. And that was back when the population was around 3 million rather than over 5 million people today. So we should keep recent interstate migration and population growth in perspective. 

Finally, regarding the investment boom the Courier-Mail is proclaiming, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner may have reason to be excited as so many of the biggest current construction projects are in Brisbane (e.g. Queen’s Wharf and Cross River Rail), but from a state-wide perspective the investment pipeline is not that extraordinary as I’ve previously discussed (see How much momentum does business investment in Qld have? and Qld’s heavy CAPEX pipeline dominated by public sector projects). 

Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to contact@queenslandeconomywatch.com. Also please check out my Economics Explored podcast, which has a new episode each week.

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