Australia's latest census – a picture of a changing nation –

In a world of fake news, reliable statistics are an increasingly scarce commodity. Hopefully, last week Australia received a great raft of them with the release of data from the latest ‘Census of Population and Housing’.
That census was conducted on 10 August 2021 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It provides an invaluable overview of the state of Australia and how it’s changing over time.
Last year, the population reached nearly 25.5 million, an increase of more than two million people, or 8.6% since the previous census in 2016. Interestingly, two thirds of the population now live in Australia’s capital cities – 40% in Sydney (5.2 million) and Melbourne (4.9 million) alone.
Contrary to the impression created by icons like Crocodile Dundee and the Man from Snowy River and brands like Akubra and RM Williams, Australia is a highly urbanised country. 
The latest population increase included over a million immigrants, the bulk of whom arrived in 2017-2019 before the country closed down for Covid-19. Debate is now heating up in Australia about the wisdom or otherwise of ratcheting up immigration to make up for the shortfall caused by the pandemic over the last two years.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Australia revealed by the 2021 census is the extent to which it is an immigrant nation. 51.5% of Australians, more than half the population, were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas.

Source: ABS
First generation refers to a person born overseas, and second generation refers to a person with one or both parents born overseas.  
The 48.5% described as ‘Third + generation’ includes the 3.2% of Australians who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Their ancestors have been here for literally thousands of generations.
In a fascinating comparison with Te Reo Māori, there were 167 different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in use in Australia in 2021.
The source of Australia’s immigrants has been shifting over the decades. Last century there were waves of people from a range of countries including England, Greece, Italy, and Vietnam. According to the latest census, the four countries that have provided the largest proportion of today’s foreign-born Australian residents are England, India, China, and New Zealand.
The following graph tracks the size of each of these groups as a proportion of the total Australian population across the last six censuses. 

Source: ABS
The trend is clear. Over the last quarter century, Australia has become less English and more Asian. The ‘ten pound poms’ are dying out and not being replaced by large numbers of new migrants from England while immigration from Asia is steadily increasing. In just the last decade, the proportion of people living in Australia who were born in India has soared from 1.4% to 2.6%. In actual numbers, that represents a jump from less than 300,000 in 2011 to 673,000 in 2021.
The position of kiwis living in the ‘West Island’ has been relatively stable for the last twenty years at around 2% of the Australian population. Given that that population is increasing, maintaining that 2% requires a regular stream of kiwis crossing the ditch.
There are currently about 530,000 NZ-born people resident in Australia. That number will likely rise as Australian employers are now looking to New Zealand as a source of workers to ease chronic labour shortages nationwide.
In the 2021 census, the changing nature of Australia’s demography is reflected in the nation’s religious diversity. In the five years since the 2016 census, the numbers of Australians reporting affiliation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam have increased significantly. By contrast, affiliation with Christianity has dropped both in numbers and as a percentage of the population. Less than 44% of Australians now describe themselves as Christian.  
The biggest gain has been in ‘No religious affiliation’, rising from 30.1% to 38.9% of the population in just five years.   
The 2021 census provides a wealth of information on another topic that is a quasi-religion for many Australians – housing. The census recorded 10.8 million private dwellings in Australia. Interestingly, the average number of people in each household was 2.5, a drop from 2.6 in the previous census. That drop may partly explain why there is a rental crisis even after two years of a Covid-19- induced immigration freeze.
More than a quarter of Australians now live alone.
Two thirds of households live in a home they own while one third rent.

Source: ABS
70% of dwellings are separate houses, 13% townhouses, and 16% apartments.
There’s much discussion in Australia about the privileged position of the baby boomer generation. They are constantly attacked for their gains from the decades-long housing boom and their domination of the political arena. The 2021 census reveals that change is coming, albeit slowly.

  Source: ABS
In demographic terms at least, the Millenials are finally catching up with the baby boomers.  
Just in time to deal with federal government debt approaching one trillion dollars, tumbling house prices, a deteriorating geopolitical outlook in the Indo-Pacific, and an increasingly unpredictable climate.
Ross Stitt is a freelance writer and tax lawyer with a PhD in political science. He is a New Zealander based in Sydney. His articles are part of our ‘Understanding Australia‘ series.
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Aligns with the Strauss-Howe/4th Turning Theory. By the end of the decade, millennials will be the dominant generation across the anglosphere as boomers relinquish that position (leave the work place, reduced capacity, illness and death).
By the end of this decade the 4th turning will be complete and the ‘crisis’ period will be over. If the theory is correct, we will move on from this period of financial, social and geopolitical instability and civil dysfunction (a result of the changing of the dominant generations and lack of quality leadership) – and with the millennials having witnessed the insanity of the last 20 years, will work to bring about a sense of collectivism/community and stability once more as the greatest generation did in the post WW2 period. 
The question will be, what sort of crazy things might we see as boomers go about influencing the world before/as they lose control? Putin is taking his shot. Up to now, Gen X has looked to boomers for leadership…but in a few years time, if the Strauss-Howe theory is correct, they will realise that the boomer generation are a lost cause and will look to the millennial generation for leadership into the ‘new world’. 
As the Boomers head into retirement, and relinquish control to Millennials, it’ll be interesting to see if any changes are made that are less favorable to boomer pensioners as a thank you for a busted housing market.  
“Hey guys, uhh yeah sorry the country is broke, you’re expected to live for another 20 years but we just cannot afford to keep paying you to sit around doing nothing.  Sell your rentals and eat your capital please.”  
Who knows…hopefully far less self interested, short term, speculative behaviour. More of a focus on community/society and stability as opposed to walking all over one another in order to try and ‘get ahead’ while selfishly pursuing ones own desires with little care for the consequences on others. Realising that society is interdependent in nature. 
Sounds like no millenial I’ve ever met, almost all appear to be self centered entitled narcissists.
Yes unfortunately I think that is because of what has been modelled to them by their boomer parents. If true, perhaps it is a failure of boomer parenting then…hard to say. 
In saying that, many of the Millennials I talk to aren’t what you suggest, but they feel lost because they want direction/guidance/leadership from the generations above them – they really want to solve the issues that are facing society (climate change, inequality, mental health etc) but when they try to do so, they get shot down by the generations above them who are too overwhelmed with everything in the day to day lives that they lack the skills to even try to improve things. 
I think as a result many Millennials feel let down by Boomers/Gen X – and while those same generations talk down to Millennials instead of setting the example of the behaviour they expect.
Interestingly Strauss and Howe suggest that Boomers want to influence and guidance Millennials but will lack the skills to do so (because they didn’t have to live through a period of crisis when they were young adults – like the Greatest Generation and Millennials) – and as a result they could end up becoming hypocrites.
You don’t seem to have a great relationship with irony, do you? 
It going to be the Gen Xers who dominate the next 20 years.
The Mellennials, nice as they are have no sense of reality and are a bunch of woke snowflakes that are incapable of leading us through the challenging times ahead of us in respect to population/energy/food security/societal issues etc.
Look at the mellennial influence in US politics,  its self destructing at every turn…
I may be a millennial, but at least I can spell millennial.
Protip for everyone: if you see a squiggly red line under a word it’s spelt wrong. Holding the CTRL key down while right clicking on the word will  display the correct spelling.
I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt that it’s a witticism – Mellennial = “Me”-llennial, “it’s all about me.”
Boomers are the real Me Generation from memory?
Me generation – Wikipedia
I would have thought to qualify as a ‘witticism’ it would have to be remotely humourus in some way, instead of just pathetic ranting about how everyone else is a snowflake and you’re definitely not peeing your pants over how upset it makes you. 
I’m guessing the Strauss-Howe theory has hit a nerve if that is your take. 
Regarding the Millennial influence on US politics – the problem is more likely the senile/decrepit old men (Trump/Biden) who are well past their best by date, having one final shot at influencing society because they know they are losing control and are terrified of becoming irrelevant (much like the manner boomers who sit in management positions around the world – despite not needing the income, nor offering solutions to the problems that society faces – you can add the likes of Pelosis and Clinton to that list of terrible politicians). Biden and Trump have only divided society (to near civil war) because they lack the skills to unite people towards common goals? Hardly a Millennial issue. Could we have a Kennedy, Carter or a Reagan instead – from the Greatest Generation that helped create the conditions of prosperity that boomers experienced in the 60’s – 80’s? (always exceptions of course…)
Interesting that the issues you raise (population/energy/food security/societal issues) – from my perspective these are problems that have been generated because the current generation/s that have been dominant in society (primarily boomers) have been asleep at the wheel the last 30-40 years – creating serious problems everywhere and then like the above (blaming Millennials for the mess of US politics!), trying to put blame on those who have up to now had very little influence on the outcomes. 
Nice theories, except Biden and Trump aren’t “boomers”.
Generally I actually like millennials. Every generation has its merits and pitfalls. They will live in a future very different from anything we experienced.
For example a declining population across most industrialised countries will mean less pressure on resources and assets. However there will be more pressure to be productive, my generation had excess employees so industry got very bloated and inefficient with labour use. Millennials can be expected to be better rewarded for their work in future and do more meaningful work however simply because there are fewer of them to produce the goods and services society needs and desires.
It’s a brave new world and I wish them luck on their journey through life.
The definition of 2nd generation as one or both parent born overseas is a little misleading. My wife’s family came here on a sailing ship and a waka, but I was born in the UK. According to this definition my kids are not 3rd generation+ and are counted as immigrants. Surely both parents should be born overseas to be 2nd generation.
It’s not Interwar generation it’s Silent generation. A much cooler name. How can you be interwar anyway if you were born in 1946-47 as a 75 year old would be today?
Also why is “Millennial” capitalised but not “baby boomer”?
“Millennials are finally catching up with the Baby Boomers – just in time to deal with tumbling house prices, a deteriorating geopolitical outlook & an increasingly unpredictable climate”
Sounds a lot like the 1970s when the boomers caught up with their parents – just add massive inflation record interest rates, wage/price freezes & carless days…
A good short summary of where we might be in The 4th Turning by Neill Howe if anyone is interested in the theory:
For me, reading the book (The 4th Turning) gave incredible insights to try and make sense of what was unfolding around us – including the intergenerational war that appeared to be taking place the last 5-10 years or so. It also great in terms of understanding financial markets/cycles and also aligns nicely with Ray Dalio’s long debt cycle theory (both 80-100 year cycles) – and if both theories are true….we are now near the end of this cycle 1946…now. hence the excessive debt/ high asset prices, inequality, division, instability. Understanding the 1930’s and 1940’s could be crucial to understanding what is going on now. 
The biggest gain has been in ‘No religious affiliation’, rising from 30.1% to 38.9% of the population in just five years.
No wonder God has been smiting them with floods, droughts and fires.
yeah .. but which God ? – or was it all of them ? 
I’m guessing the flood waters parted when reaching the dwellings of the righteous?
So all those in the flood zones were non-believers?  How did He/She/Them(just to show how up to date i am) manage to separate out the saved from the doomed?
God is probably “testing their faith”.
Top stuff this is exactly why I waste at least an hour a day on this site. A real conversation, which makes a change from everything else we’re supposed to listen to.
We are indeed at the end of what I call the big cycle. Some might call it the whole of life cycle, but essentially it began in 1946 & is in the process of winding down today. To understand why that ‘new start’ is so important, you have to go back to the beginning of the 20th Century & work your way through a couple of wars & a depression, which many of you will know about. But understand? Not sure. Anyhow…
I’m a boomer & am a lucky person as I was the first generation of my past 3 (me, my father & his father) that wasn’t shipped off to a war on foreign soil on behalf of our ancestral connections. I don’t count Vietnam. In fact, the whole of the first half of the 20th Century was a little grubby & bloody hard on most of those who had to live through it. And many didn’t make it. So 1946 was the beginning of a new age. Literally & also in reality.
We were lucky. The 50’s was family friendly & everyone was just glad to be getting on with a life that didn’t include a war or famine. The 60’s were dead sexy, but the 70’s were ugly again. This time a new generation (the boomers) were being indoctrinated by false teachers, combined with the arrival of the pill, sent us into an era nobody foresaw, nor could understand for a long while. Who remembers the generation gap? That was part of it. The greatest generation of our time (our parents) & us (the boomers) & lookout world.
The 70’s nearly broke us. Figuratively & literally. Carless days, huge inflation, long hair & hippies, lots of drugs, you name it, we did it in the 70’s. But, it nearly killed us & more so for our parents than us, as we were still too immature to know what was really going on. Or too stoned. Reagan & Thatcher rescued the fleet from the storm in the 80’s & I can only say thank you guys. The boomers were still a hot mess, but at least we had some hope & stability, even if the music was getting worse.
Then came the 90’s & the arrival of big tech, which was to fundamentally underwrite the next 30 years in ways we are still learning about today. But essentially, Wall St dumped it’s own home grown manufacturing for the cheap Chinese labour across the Pacific & we all thought we were wonderful, even though we were a way off understanding what was really happening. Wall St sold down its own people for cheap Chinese labour, which sent millions of people in the mid-west in America onto the dole, which wasn’t great. Some argue that the unions had priced their own members (labour) out of the market, which has some truth to it, but anyhow, the great divide in the USA had begun. And is still with us today.
The new millennium arrived with Y2K crashing the IT boom & the reality had caught up with Japan as well, as they too priced themselves off the market. Then… the sleeping giant, further to the west, awoke. But still we didn’t quite get it.
In NZ we too had priced our cheap labour off the market as my friend Mark couldn’t believe his luck by importing chairs rather than having to pay a fortune for them to be made here. He became (still is) a very wealthy man. But the reality was getting closer. The GFC was a warning shot & the great $print began, which created an asset boom but a labour downfall. Our very own home-made divide was here. And still is.
Since then it’s just been one shouting match after another. The false teachers have fundmenetally changed the thinking in the new generations, which have been saved/spoiled by their over-protected parents & the media lies, which has nothing to prepare the millennials or gen Xérs for any real life & the real problems that go with it.
The baby boomers, meanwhile, have disintergrated (well, the bottom have have) as they also never knew the tough reality of life nor how to overcome it, with divorce & family destruction carried out on a massive scale, sending a lot of them into poverty, sadly, in which many of them still remain.
So here we are in the 2020’s, a society divided, covid crunched & in my case, running out of time. Being a boomer doesn’t mean to say that I’m proud of the achievements of my generation. I many cases, quite the opposite. We were pretty poor parents all said & done & we know that because we look at our children & grandchildren & go ”Really?” However, we continue to hope things will get better & continue to look after (read spoil) our children even though they’re now adults & can do these things for themselves. 
Jordan Petersen believes we spoilt our kids because we didn’t have many of them (compared to our parents generation). We had two but our son may only have one. All your eggs in one basket is never a good long term strategy, but what do we know, ay? The good news is that the prices of houses is coming down. See. There is hope after all.
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