Internal migration again

I knew that I would be writing about internal migration several times this year as I expected that there would be a lot of talk about Covid’s impact on domestic population movements.

Well, that talk is happening and much of it is noise.

So, please bear with me.  This is my third post about this stuff so far this year and to save you some pain this missive is somewhat short and sweet.

Well, I think they are all sweet!


If you believe the media one would think that we are witnessing a massive lift in internal migration.  But the official statistics show otherwise.

Last year – that is during calendar 2020 – some 354,000 people moved around the country.  As it should be expected, given the circumstances, this internal population movement was down from 396,000 during 2019.  But on average over the last decade some 365,000 moved internally around Australia each year.

And for those who like to quote the latest statistics rather than a trendline, there were 109,000 internal movements during the last three months of 2019 compared to 105,000 similar travels during the December quarter last year.

So last year – or the most recent quarter – wasn’t anything really special at all when it comes to overall internal migration volumes.

Yes, there were some winners and losers in the internal migration mix.

Table 1 shows that the winners were NSW and NT (with fewer people leaving the state) and in terms of positive migration Qld, SA, WA and the ACT were also winners.

The big loser was Victoria and, also to a much lesser extent, Tasmania (despite many commentators suggesting otherwise) as the Apple Isle also went backwards in terms of interior migration last year.  I might have had something to do with that!

It is also a yes when it comes to regions getting a higher share of the recent population count when compared to the recent past.

That regional population count was up 45% over the last twelve months, with a 19,000 net increase during 2019 versus 43,000 net lift last year.

Furthermore the 19,000 net regional increase made up for 5% of the total internal population change across Australia in 2019 and the recent 43,000 net rise accounted for 12% of the nation’s interior tally during 2020.

Yes, this is a big change, but as I outlined earlier this year one of the main reasons for this is that many young people living in regional Australia – and who would normally have done so – didn’t move to a capital city last year.

Population movement is a net result.  Regional arrivals have remained largely steady over recent years, whilst regional departures have fallen.  Hence there has been a lift in the regional population count between 2019 and 2020.

Also masking the real extent of any recent ‘regional’ population movement is the fact that the ABS includes many of the outer urban/suburban areas in our larger city conglomerations as being a ‘region’ rather than a part of that wider metropolis.

Think the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong for example.

In addition, table 2 shows that the has been little change in the age structure of internal migration across much of the country last year.

The only noticeable change – which ironically is in contrast to the recent front-page headline grabbing images of young couples with a bub having a brew in the provincial trendy café and waxing lyrical about living in a regional hub – is that a higher proportion of older people are moving to our regional centres.

The portion of young people moving to a regional centre is actually declining.  Again, revisit table 2.

Two tables

End note

And of course, actions speak louder than words.

If regional centres were seeing a massive influx of new residents and especially those of working age why is the likes of the Queensland government offering cash incentives for people to move and work in a regional town?

To visit my two earlier posts about internal migration, go here:

Internal migration


I think I have given this topic a good shake and unless something contrary to my thesis jumps out in coming months, I will stay silent on this subject for a while.

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