Census 2016: An Older, More Diverse & Less Religious Population

Census 2016 ABS

The ABS  just launched the first release of the 2016 Census data, and there are some fascinating stories to tell about Australia and the suburbs and towns within it.

At a glance our residents are older, a larger proportion of us are born overseas, we are increasingly faithless and we are renting more than ever…

The Census data collected by the ABS includes some 68.9 million individual pieces of information from 8.5 million households and 700,000 individual forms to build the most complete picture of Australian life in the five years since the 2011 Census.


  • Australia’s estimated population at December 31 was 24.4 million people.
  • There were 23,717,421 people in Australia on Census night, which included 23,401,892 people who usually live in Australia — an 8.8 per cent increase from 2011. More than 600,000 Australians were travelling overseas.
  • NSW remains our most populous state, with 7,480,228 people counted, ahead of Victoria (5,926,624) and Queensland (4,703,193).
  • The Australian Capital Territory experienced the largest population growth of any state or territory over the past five years, adding more than 40,000 new residents – an increase of 11 per cent.
  • Greater Sydney is Australia’s largest population centre with 4,823,991 people, growing at 1656 every week since the previous Census.
  • 1.3 million new migrants have come to Australia since 2011, hailing from some of the 180 countries of birth recorded in the Census, with China (191,000) and India (163,000) being the most common countries of birth of new arrivals.
  • Of all Australian residents, just more than a quarter of people (26 per cent) said they were born overseas, with England remaining the most common country of birth other than Australia. For the first time in our history, the majority of people born overseas are now from Asia, not Europe.

Not so religious

For the first time in our history, more people claimed no religious affiliation, overtaking Catholics as a proportion of the population with 29.6 per cent compared to 22.6 per cent – while the number of Christians in total fell to 52.1 per cent from 74 per cent in 1991.

More Australians ticking ‘no religion’ in the Census has now overtaken the number of Catholics.











Family households

The family structure hasn’t changed much in the past five years although couple households with children have fallen 10 percentage points to 44.7 per cent in 25 years and single parent families continue to increase to 15.8 per cent last year.

More than eight in ten of these single parent families are mothers but single dads are growing faster as a share.

Across the board, all of these families are the most diverse they have ever been; both in terms of race, gender & sexual orientation.

The number of same-sex couples with and without children leapt 39 per cent to 46,800.

ABS Snapshot 2017

Almost 30% of Australians claim ‘no religion’, 2017 ABS Census data reveals.









Migration boom: less European, more Asian

Today in Australia, 49.3 per cent of all people are first and second generation residents. A migration boom from China and India, accounting for 27 per cent of all migration in the past decade, has transformed the face of the nation.

European immigrants who arrived in large numbers in the middle of the last century are growing older with their median age now sitting at 59, with fewer numbers coming to replace them.

Asian immigrants are the new driving force of the Australian population boom with a median age of 35.

In total, 1.3 million new migrants moved to Australia since 2011. India with 163,000 and China with 191,000 are the largest sources.

The total number of people living in Australia who were born overseas increased b 870,000 over the past five years – representing an increase from 24.6 per cent to 26.3 per cent, or more than one in four Australian residents.

Our capital cities are growing twice as fast as the rest of the country, due largely to 86 per cent of migrants who arrived in the last 25 years choosing to settle in our capital cities.

Melbourne our largest capital city

Speaking of capital cities, Melbourne is set to overtake Sydney as Australia’s most populous city by 2050, with an average of almost 1859 new residents moving here each week compared to 1656 for Sydney.

Melbourne & Sydney ABS 2016










An ageing population

Our median age has jumped from 23 in 1991, to 28 in 1966 to 37 in 2011. The maturing of the baby-boomer generation has meant that one in six are now over 65 compared with one in seven in 2011 and just one in 25 in 1911.

Those aged 85 plus now number half-a-million, whilst the proportion of children and teenagers has shrunk in almost all areas except among Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders where most of the growth has come from Australia’s youngest citizens.

Rising rents & tighter household budgets

Rising rents and mortgage stress coupled with stagnant wage growth are making us work harder on tighter budget.

The median personal income of Australians has grown to $662 a week across Australia; with $664 in NSW and $644 in Victoria.

The ACT is the wealthiest state with a median income of $998 per week.

Melbourne, Sydney & Perth have the highest proportion of homes spending more than 30 per cent of their household incomes on a mortgage. In Sydney, 22 per cent are spending more than a third of their monthly income on rent.

The number of renters in NSW has increased from 30.1 to 31.8 per cent while Victoria has increased from 26.5 to 28.7 per cent.

Ownership, mortgage & renters, 1991 vs 2016

  • Owned their home out right: 41 per cent vs 31 per cent
  • Have a mortgage: 27.5 per cent vs 34.5 per cent have a mortgage
  • Renting: 26.9 per cent vs 30.9 per cent

Detached housing accounts for 72 per cent of all homes in Australia, whilst an increase in flats, apartments, semidetached or townhouses now make up more than 26 per cent of Australian housing.

Source: abs.gov.ausbs.com.au;  theage.com.au; news.com.au