Australia’s population levels face a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic off the back of harsh international travel restrictions and a loss of skilled migrants.
New figures from the Centre for Population show the rebound is set to take years. Population growth is forecast to amount to just 0.3 per cent in 2021/22 before rising to 1.4 per cent by 2024/25.
Populations across every jurisdiction except the Northern Territory are set to record a fall in 2020/21 compared with 2019/20 levels.
Australia’s total population is also projected to be 1.5 million people smaller after 10 years, compared with pre-pandemic estimates.
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said a fall in migration levels was a major contributor to the drop.
“This largely reflects restrictions on international borders and the impact on net overseas migration, typically the main source of Australia’s population growth,” he said.
Net overseas migration has fallen from a net inflow of 193,000 people in 2019/20 to a net outflow of 100,000 in 2020/21.
There was a slight improvement forecast for this financial year, with a net outflow of just 41,000 in 2021/22.
As border restrictions ease and overseas migration returns, capital cities are forecast to have higher growth rates.
It comes after forecasts showed a 0.1 per cent decline in population growth in 2020/21 for capital cities.
However, there was a small uptick of 0.5 per cent growth for non-capital city areas.
Mr Sukkar said high growth rates would return for major cities from 2022/23 once regular travel resumed.
Business leaders have called for the federal government to lift the cap on migration in response to labour shortages caused by the pandemic and international border closures.
Visa holders, which include skilled workers and overseas students, have been able to fly into Australia without the need for a travel exemption since December 15.