.id - the population experts

What impact will COVID-19 have on Australia's future population?

2031 forecasts

Updated forecasts for Australia's population in 2031, considering the effects of COVID-19 on births, death and overseas migration.

age structure

The link between overseas migration and a significant decline in the 'under 50's'


A detailed discussion of our assumptions as we forecast with what we know today


Updating our forecasts in response to COVID-19

In light of the known and anticipated impacts of COVID-19, we will be sharing our demographic and economic expertise and modelling insights via a series of forecasts over the next 6 to 18 months.

"We don't yet have all the answers, but we have an excellent framework for discussing these questions"

John O'Leary Forecast model lead

Our intention is to provide context and understanding for the nature and magnitude of demographic change that unfolds across Australia’s states and territories.

These forecasts are important in that they directly inform our forecasts for local areas - both our Small Area Forecast information (SAFi) and local area forecasts (forecast.id). So initially, we will be sharing our forecasts at a national level, before sharing more localised data, showing how the impact cascades down into the regions.

The .id forecast series will enable us to model the impacts as

  • more data and evidence become available
  • social distancing, border shutdown policy decisions are made, and
  • economic stimulus policy evolves, and its impacts are better understood

Our method

Our approach is to develop a narrative based on our expertise and the available evidence, use the narrative to make educated assumptions, then apply those assumptions through our population forecast models to enable us to quantify the likely outcomes.

This will enable us to provide timely, valuable insights to our clients and partners on a regular basis.

"The expected nosedive in overseas migration sees Australia’s growth rate drop to 0.7% in 2020-21, down from 1.2% in 2019-20. You have to go back to the early 1990s recession to see these sorts of numbers."

Johnny Barnard Forecaster and consultant


Our baseline for population forecasts for Australia represents an important view of Australia’s population forecast prior to the Covid19 shock. The baseline can be used as a benchmark against which the magnitude and nature of change can be measured against the “old normal”.

2031 population: pre-covid


Our pre-covid set of national forecasts for Australia were prepared last year.

In these forecasts, Australia’s population reached 29,792,000 in 2031. The primary driver of these forecasts was an assumed longer-term net overseas migration rate of 225,000 each year.

In the updated set of forecasts, net overseas migration is dramatically altered in the next two to three years.

In the medium to longer-term, it is assumed that net overseas migration recovers to 200,000 per annum. This is based on Australia resuming its role as an attractive destination for overseas migrants.

2031 population: post-covid


The updated forecasts for 2031 result in a population of 28,923,000. 868,000 below the pre-COVID-19 scenario.

To give some context, this is larger than the 2019 population of Tasmania and the Northern Territory combined.

The impact on Australia’s population growth rate will be from a relatively high growth rate of between 1.5 to 2.0% over the past 10 years to less than 1% by 2050.

The impact on Australia’s 2031 age structure

The loss of overseas migrants is the factor that impacts Australia’s population future in the most significant way.

Given the age structure of overseas migrants is dominated by the 'fertile' age groups, the loss of overseas migrants to Australia will not impact on the fertility rate but will result in fewer births, which will significantly impact on the forecast age structure.

This will most significantly impact children, teenagers and young adults, with negligible impact on the older age groups 50 years and over.

Who will feel the impact of fewer overseas migrants?

Places such as Sydney and Melbourne have the most education and employment opportunities for overseas migrants and are therefore established destinations for overseas arrivals.

So while the massive decrease in overseas migrants is a significant demographic event for Australia, these cities (and States) will be hardest hit by the closure of our borders.

By the same token, there will be places that do not traditionally attract overseas migrants who not be exposed to the impacts of border closures in the same way.

Notes on the assumptions in our updated national forecasts

Any forecast of population makes assumptions about a number of inputs to the modelling, such as the fertility and mortality rates and net overseas migration. Our approach is always to be transparent about our forecast assumptions, so they can be interrogated, understood and the forecasts can be used to make confident and informed decisions.