Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Australia’s migrant population shrinks for first time in two decades

John Masanauskas, May 1, 2022 3:00PM Kids News

Print Article

Australia’s migrant population has decreased for the first time in 20 years but English, Indian and Chinese people remain our biggest overseas-born groups. Picture: Tony Gough media_cameraAustralia’s migrant population has decreased for the first time in 20 years but English, Indian and Chinese people remain our biggest overseas-born groups. Picture: Tony Gough


Reading level: green

Australia has experienced its first plunge in its migrant* population for 20 years after the pandemic played havoc* with the global movement of people.

Those born in England remained the nation’s No.1 migrant community in 2021 with 967,390 people, about 13,000 fewer than the previous year, according to a new Australian Bureau of Statistics report.

Next were those born in India with 710,380 people (down 13,000), followed by China at 595,630 (down 52,000).

The report, Australia’s Population by Country of Birth, revealed 7.5 million Australians were born overseas as of June 30, 2021, down from 7.7 million a year earlier.

Australians Adjust As New Safety Measures Are Brought In To Stem The Spread Of Coronavirus media_cameraChinese-born residents make up Australia’s third biggest group of migrants and have had an influence on our society, including here in Melbourne’s China Town in Little Bourke Street. Picture: Getty Images

ABS head of migration statistics Jenny Dobak said despite the decrease in the overseas-born cohort*, Australia’s population increased by 45,000 in 2020-21 due to birth numbers.

“The decrease reflected reduced overseas migration* in and out of Australia, given the Covid-19 travel restrictions,” Ms Dobak said.

“The travel and migration intentions of many people changed due to the pandemic, including those migrating to work or study.

“In the first year of the pandemic there were fewer people born overseas migrating to Australia, as well as fewer people born in Australia departing to live overseas.”

Western Australian Opens To Travellers After Two Years Of Strict Border Controls media_cameraTravel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic led to a reduction in the number of people moving to Australia to live. Picture: Getty Images

Last year, 29.1 per cent of Australia’s population was born overseas, compared to 29.8 per cent in 2020.

The report showed that in 2020 Australia ranked ninth internationally for our total number of migrants. We ranked 10th in 2010.

Among other migrant groups, in 2021 there were 560,000 New Zealand-born people living in Australia, 311,000 Philippines-born, 268,000 Vietnamese, 202,000 South Africans and 172,000 Malaysians.

The number of Scottish-born migrants was 130,000, down by 11,000 since 2011. Other traditional post-war migrant groups also experienced big population drops across the decade such as the Italian-born (down 30,000 to 171,500), German-born (down 18,000 to 108,000) and Greek-born (down 21,000 to 100,650).

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS media_cameraMigration to Australia is expected to rise steadily over the next few years now that our international borders are again open. Here people arrive at the international terminal at Melbourne Airport after the borders were reopened to students and skilled workers in December 2021. Picture: David Geraghty

With borders open, net* overseas migration to Australia is expected to rise steadily over the next few years with the federal government forecasting about 230,000 migrants a year – akin* to pre-pandemic levels – by 2025.

Big business groups, including the property and development industry, want migrant intakes increased to cover the shortfall in population growth caused by the pandemic.

But Jenny Goldie, national president of environmental group Sustainable Population Australia, said a bigger population meant using more resources and producing more waste and greenhouse gases.

“We might have some hope of achieving our emission reduction targets* if we did not have a constantly growing population,” she said, describing pre-pandemic levels of immigration* as “excessive*”.


  • migrant: a person who moves from one country to live in another
  • havoc: damage, disorder, confusion
  • cohort: a group of people who have something in common
  • migration: the movement of people from one place to live in another
  • net: the final amount after losses are accounted for
  • akin: similar to
  • emission reduction targets: the targets that are set for reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, including reaching net zero emissions by 2050
  • immigration: coming to live permanently in a foreign country
  • excessive: more than is necessary, normal or desirable


What is the Census all about?

Australians having fewer babies than ever

English test plan for residency applicants

Snapshot of Australian history


  1. How long has it been since Australia’s migrant population decreased in size?
  2. People from which country make up the biggest group of migrants in Australia?
  3. Which organisation released this report?
  4. How many millions of Australians were born overseas as of June 30, 2021?
  5. Where did Australia rank internationally for our total number of migrants in 2020?


1. Graphing
Create a bar graph that shows the number of migrants living in Australia in 2021 from the 12 different countries whose data is provided within this news story.

Display the countries in order from the highest number of migrants to the lowest. Be sure to include a title and to label your graph.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Mathematics

2. Extension
Brainstorm a list of all of the reasons why you think Australia is a desirable destination for migrants.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Intercultural Understanding

Creative vocabulary
Find a bland sentence from the article to up-level. Can you add more detail and description? Can you replace any “said” words with more specific synonyms?

Have you outdone yourself and used some really great vocabulary throughout your writing? Firstly, well done. Secondly, let’s ensure everyone can understand it by adding a glossary of terms.

Pick three of your wow words and create a glossary for each word to explain what it means.

Extra Reading in humanities