Net overseas migration jumped by more than 60% in the year ending September 2023 over the previous 12-month period, according to new ABS population data released on Thursday.

Annual net overseas migration to the quarter ending September was 548,000 people, 30,000 more than the previous annual record high of 518,000 for the year ended June 2023.

New ABS population data shows another net 145,200 migrants entered Australia during the September quarter, an increase of 16.3% over the previous quarter.

Overseas arrivals also made up the lion’s share – 83% – of the 659,800 people added to Australia’s population in the year to September.

Natural population numbers declined almost 4% over the period.

The country’s ‘estimated resident population’ was at a record 26,821,557 people as at 30 September last year – 2.5% higher than the previous year.

No sign of migration slowdown

After record migration to Australia in the 2022-23 financial year, the federal government said it intended to reduce net overseas migration to around 350,000 people per year.

Treasury figures in the December’s mid-year budget indicated the intake was at a peak, with numbers expected to decline over the next two financial years.

Today’s figures show net migration is yet to slow despite the federal government promising to impose stricter controls on foreign student visas.

In January, 83,000 overseas students arrived in Australia although the number was 8% lower than pre-COVID student numbers in January 2019.

This Saturday is the start date for new English-language requirements for student and graduate visa holders, with a new ‘genuine student’ test also due to take effect.

There are also ongoing concerns record levels of migration have contributed to skyrocketing rents amid Australia’s housing supply crisis.

Figures released on Wednesday by SQM Research put Australia’s average weekly rent at a record $616 in March.

Are migrants causing the rental crisis?

Property market analysts widely agree record migration levels are just one contributor to record rents and plunging vacancy rates, now less than 1% in most capital cities.

Seeds of the rental crisis were already planted during the pandemic when Australian households became smaller and work from home regimes allowed city dwellers to move to regional areas, pushing local rents higher.

Rents had begun to escalate even before the federal government restarted the country’s migration program.

CoreLogic figures puts the average rental increase nationally at around 27% over the past three years.

The InfoChoice Rent Crisis Survey, published in January 2024, found 70% of respondents were spending more than 30% of their gross income on rent, the marker of rental stress.

Just over 19% said reducing immigration would be a worthwhile policy to improve rental affordability, backed by nearly a third of Baby Boomers.

The most supported policy measure was for the government to provide more public housing, nominated by more than a quarter of all respondents.

Where are migrants settling?

New South Wales accommodated the most migrants in the year to September, followed by Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia.

WA experienced the biggest jump in population growth rate at 3.3%, ahead of Victoria at 2.7%.

Queensland saw by far the highest level of interstate migration followed by WA, the ABS data found.

Image by Lisanto on Unsplash

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