The five millionth Queenslander, explained
The second sitting week of May has started with a bang, as the government spruiks Queensland’s population boom with the Premier noting the ‘five millionth Queenslander’ will be born today.
Here is our breakdown on ins and outs of the data behind Queensland’s population boom.
During the early 2000s, Queensland’s population grew at a rate above 2 per cent. The strong growth reflected job opportunities from an economy boosted by an infrastructure boom and the initial stages of the mining boom drawing in workers from other Australian regions and internationally. There were also push factors at play, with a boom in Sydney housing values leading some to migrate north.
The current population growth spurt appears to be mostly push factors too. Over the past five years, property prices have shot up in Sydney and Melbourne. The cheaper cost of housing here in Queensland has allowed interstate residents to cash in their assets and upgrade their lifestyle here in Queensland.
Population growth could once again rise to an annual rate in excess of 2 per cent if Queensland’s labour market continues to create opportunities. The unemployment rate here in Queensland is currently over 6 per cent, which compares unfavourably with the other major eastern states.
Queensland enjoys many lifestyle advantages over other regions which would attract more people to lay down roots in our state. However, finding employment is still the biggest obstacle, with the time required to secure employment higher than the rest of the country in recent years.
With an improvement in the unemployment rate, we are likely to see interstate migration pick up further, encouraging workers to pack up and head to the Sunshine State.
Components of change
Based on the latest data, three quarters of the gain in interstate migrants is from NSW and Victoria. Queensland’s international migrant base is made up of a combination of temporary visas (education, skilled work and working holidays) and to a smaller extent, permanent visas (family, skilled workers and special eligibility & humanitarian programmes).
Where is the growth occurring?
In the year to June 2017, Queensland’s population increased by 79,500 (1.6 per cent). The fastest growth occurred in the SEQ corner with Gold Coast the strongest region (2.7 per cent), followed by Sunshine Coast (2.5 per cent) and Greater Brisbane (2.0 per cent).
The latest year of data reflects broader long term trends which has seen population growth strongest in regions across Brisbane Inner City, Ipswich and Moreton Bay, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
What are the opportunities?
At a simple level, population growth creates jobs across many industries relating to basic human needs such as food, clothing, shelter and transport. Depending on the demographic composition of our interstate migrants (and the regions they move to), job creation is likely to occur in different services industries such health care for retirees and teachers for younger families relocating here. There will also need to build more housing and infrastructure, which will facilitate an uplift in construction activity.
Demographic trends back this up. Queensland’s population is getting older, with the median age rising to 37 years in 2016 (up from 35 years in 2001). Health care was the fastest growing industry over the past decade and will likely to remain an industry of strength going forward.
Through larger cities, the benefits of agglomeration will help support a thriving business community. Businesses can benefit from the economies of scale and network effects from larger clusters of businesses and customers operating in the same region.
Queensland small businesses will no doubt welcomes greater population density across Queensland, with high populations leading to increased spending and construction activity, ultimately benefiting the bottom line of those businesses providing goods and services.
A larger population will also support cultural development and help accelerate Brisbane’s development as an international city.
What are the challenges?
With an expanding population, SEQ’s congestion challenges will only be exacerbated. It is vital that the government plans well for growth, and builds public transport infrastructure to ensure roads are not bottlenecks.
The labour market will need to pick up and diversify. We are seeing lots of commuters from the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast as the jobs in those regions do not necessarily match the skill set of the local population.
The underlying theme in the story of the five millionth Queenslander is that population growth has many positives and the latest trends contain mostly push factors, as opposed to pull factors of a strong economy. Although Queensland’s job market is improving, it is still underperforming. Unemployment rates are lower, and job opportunities are greater in southern states. What is really causing people to move to Queensland? Perhaps retirees are cashing in on assets and moving for lifestyle decisions, or younger people are look to get a foot on the property ladder.
Time will tell, but for now, happy birthday to our five millionth Queenslander.