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Population growth flatlining as visa holders and tourists disappear

Temporary student visa arrivals numbered 83,290 in April and May last year but in 2020 there were just 70 – while 15,370 temporary students left during that period.

Permanent skilled visa arrivals reached 131,310 in April and May last year but in 2020 they had fallen to just 23,240.

The numbers do not take into account short-term tourist visa numbers, but the closure of the international border has seen these collapse. Tourist visa departures out-numbered arrivals by 189,000 through the March to May period.

The visa numbers give a clear insight into what is occurring to net overseas migration, which normally accounts for almost two-thirds of Australia’s population growth.

The government is expecting population growth, currently 1.5 per cent or almost 372,000 people a year, to halve because of the coronavirus pandemic, taking it to a level last seen during World War II. Australia has one of the fastest population growth rates in the developed world.

Australia National University demographer Liz Allen said population growth would rely on natural increase with even the number of babies to be born likely to fall because of the economic impact of the pandemic on couples.

She said the drop in migrant numbers and overall population would have a long-term economic impact.

A fall in net overseas migration this year and next due to the coronavirus pandemic will see fewer people at citizenship ceremonies.

A fall in net overseas migration this year and next due to the coronavirus pandemic will see fewer people at citizenship ceremonies.Credit:David Crosling

“Australia is experiencing a short, sharp shock due to the coronavirus. Though it might be short lived, the impact will reverberate over the medium and long term, especially to the economy,” she said.

“We are likely to have fewer young people entering the workforce, and in terms of economic drivers that is going to put more pressure on the government to support the economy.”

The Morrison government is planning to end its key $70 billion JobKeeper program in late September along with its $550 a fortnight coronavirus supplement for JobSeeker and other welfare recipients.

ANZ economists on Wednesday said it expects the economy, after contracting by 5.7 per cent in the June quarter, to bounce back in the September quarter by 4 per cent.

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But the bank believes the economy will then shrink again in the final three months of the year by 0.6 per cent, largely due to the removal of the federal government’s support measures.

“Alongside the end of both the mortgage repayment deferrals offered by the banks and the residential eviction moratorium, this poses an enormous challenge for the economy,” it said.

“If the support is withdrawn on the current timetable, the economy will deteriorate rapidly in the December quarter and with it both business and consumer confidence, with the likely consequence that the recovery could stall.”

The ANZ expects unemployment to reach 7.5 per cent through the December quarter, tipping neither the economy nor the jobs market will return to their pre-coronavirus levels until 2022.

The Australian economy contracted in three out of four quarters during the recession of 1990-91.

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