Australia has changed so much in the last twenty years. Smartphones didn’t exist in the year 2000 and we couldn’t even imagine Facebook or Twitter. Technological advances have transformed the way we work and communicate with each other.
Australia’s population has also expanded rapidly in recent years. Since the turn of the century, our population has increased from just over 19 million to over 25 million.
Our population is set to grow at an even more rapid rate over the next few decades. But can we support and sustain this population growth?
What does an expanding population mean for Australia?
A growing population means more pressure on infrastructure and housing, particularly in urban areas. Extra people also place a strain on the environment, leading to rising pollution, water shortages and sanitation issues.
Without costly investments, this pressure on our services and resources could ultimately result in a dip in living standards and productivity.
Why has our population grown so rapidly?
A number of factors have contributed to Australia’s recent population growth. Medical advancement has lead to a rise in life expectancy and migration has also played a major part in this country's expanding population. Recent statistics show that almost a third of our population was born overseas.
During the last ten years in particular, this country’s migration programme has largely focused on attracting skilled migrants to target skills shortages and labour market needs. Many industries have come to rely on overseas workers on temporary visas to bring new skills and much-needed expertise. Our economy has benefited from industry expansion, particularly in areas like construction and agriculture.
Support for and against a ‘big Australia’
Despite our economic success in recent years, there have been arguments for and against migration. Some believe that Australia’s booming population growth is placing pressure on house prices and congestion problems in urban areas. Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr says immigration should be cut by 50% to prevent ‘irreversible degradation’.
In contrast, others believe that a well-managed immigration program is essential to safeguarding prosperity in years to come. Dr Helen Feist from the Australian Population and Migration Centre told the ABC high levels of immigration were resulting in a more diverse and dynamic country.
“We’re going to see a group of fertile, young people interested in wanting to start new businesses and start families and perhaps live in different areas than the traditional Australia population. So that’s going to shake things up a bit,” she said.
“With any change in society you might have a bit of an unsettling period, but I think that will settle down. And I think we will reap the benefits of that change.”
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is also a supporter of a “big Australia” saying that a rising population is good for the country.
Rudd says that without continuing significant migration flows, “who on earth is going to fund our most fundamental future national needs, from health and aged care, to retirement incomes to national defence in an increasingly unstable region.”
“We run the risk of being a young country which becomes old before its time. These are the seeds of national decline.”
Movement to regional areas should be encouraged
By 2050 it’s expected that Australia will have a population of approximately 40 million people, which will of course impact hugely on urban centres. We need to think of ways to relieve the pressure on our urban areas.
Historically, immigrants have moved to cities like Melbourne and Sydney for work opportunities and to be near those from similar ethnic backgrounds. While migrants have brought many social, cultural and economic benefits to this country, further population growth in inner-city areas may impact negatively on key public services such as housing, transport, sanitation and healthcare.
We’re also dealing with an ageing population. Over the next 40 years, the proportion of our population aged over 65 will almost double to around 25%.
It’s clear that the government needs to continue to support and develop initiatives to encourage skilled workers to relocate to regional parts of Australia. Areas such as the Northern Territory are full of untapped potential. This will enable us to build a successful, culturally diverse and sustainable future that will continue to provide the great quality of life we all enjoy.
Find out more about Australian migration options
Please get in touch with FastVisa if you’re thinking about migrating to Australia. We can advise you on your visa options and guide you through the migration process: