Australia's migrant population grows despite Covid-19 border closures

In 2021, 51.5 per cent of residents were either born overseas or have at least one parents born outside of the country. PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Australia's population has grown at a steady pace in the past five years, new census data shows, despite the number of new arrivals slumping due to Covid-19 border restrictions in recent years which blocked most travel to and from the country.

There were 25.4 million people resident in Australia in mid-August 2021 when the census was conducted, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2 million more than in 2016 and more than double the level 50 years ago, in 1971. That number would likely have been higher without the pandemic, as the number of people immigrating plummeted in the past two years.

More than 1 million people moved to Australia since 2017, but 84 per cent of those arrived before the coronavirus did, with only 166,000 people arriving in 2020 and 2021, the ABS said on Tuesday (June 28).

Australia has one of the largest foreign-born populations in the world, with 51.5 per cent of Australian residents either born overseas or having at least one parent who was born outside of the country in 2021.

People originally from India and Nepal were the fastest-growing communities over the five-year period, with Australians residents born in Nepal more than doubling since 2016 and India now the third-largest country of birth, after Australia and Britain.

At the same time, Mandarin Chinese is the most commonly-spoken language to be used in Australian households after English, with nearly 700,000 people using it at home, according to the report.

It isn't only the country's foreign-born population which has seen high levels of growth in the past five years. About 813,000 people identified as Indigenous Australians in the most recent survey, an increase of more than 25 per cent in the past five years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders now make up about 3.2 per cent of the population in 2021, up from 2.8 per cent in 2016.

The latest census also revealed a steep decline in Christianity in Australia. Less than 44 per cent of Australians said they were Christians in 2021, down from 52.1 per cent in 2016 and 61.1 per cent in 2011. There are now almost as many atheists as there are Christians in Australia, with 38.9 per cent of citizens saying they had no religion.

The fastest-growing religions in Australia are Hinduism and Islam, each with about 3 per cent of the population identifying with that faith.

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