Census data released Tuesday shows that Australia is changing rapidly before COVID, with an additional million residents coming from abroad in the past five years, almost all in the three years before the borders were closed.
For the first time since the question was asked in the census, more than half of Australia’s residents (51.5%) report being born abroad or having a foreign-born parent.
More than a quarter of the one million newcomers come from India or Nepal.
The census shows that so-called millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) are on the brink of displacing the baby boomers as Australia’s dominant generation.
While the number of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) has changed little, the proportion of the population boomer has fallen from 25.4% in 2011 to 21.5%. Millennials have risen from 20.4% to level pegging of 21.5%.
The changes are reflected in the answer to the question about religion, the only non-mandatory question in the census. Nearly 40% of the population identified themselves without religion, up from 30% in 2016 and 22% in 2011.
While 47% of millennials identify as having no religion, only 31% of boomers do not identify with any religion. Nearly 60% of boomers are Christian, compared to 30% of millennials.
The proportion of the population identifying as Christian has fallen from 52% to 44%. Other religions are growing, but remain small in comparison. Hinduism rose from 1.9% of the population in 2016 to 2.7%. Islam climbed from 2.6% to 3.2%.
The five-year snapshot
The census has been taken every five years since 1961, and less frequently from 1911 before that, and asks questions of every Australian household.
In the past five years, the number of people who use a language other than English at home has increased by 792,000 to more than 5.6 million. 852,000 Australian residents indicate that they do not speak English well or not at all.
Mandarin remains the most common language, except for English used at home, used by 685,300 people, followed by Arabic by 367,200 people.
The real value is in the details
The real value of the count is in the location data. The information released Tuesday identifies locations with every characteristic that needs certain services, such as areas with more people identifying they don’t speak English well or at all. It will also show which parts of Australia are growing in population and which parts are shrinking.
Global information released Monday showed the number of single-parent families had risen above one million. The information released Tuesday identifies the suburbs and cities they live in.
Information released Monday showed that the overall proportion of Australians owning their homes had changed little. The information released Tuesday will show those proportions by age group and city.
Two new separate questions in the 2021 census deal with defense service and long-term health issues.
A quarter of the veterans are between 65 and 74 years old, as a result of conscription during the Vietnam War.
More than two million Australians suffer from long-term mental illness; more than two million suffer from arthritis; and more than two million suffer from asthma.
Tuesday’s numbers will provide more detail on the patients’ locations and details such as their income and occupations, as well as details such as whether those who served in the defense were conscripts who served in Vietnam.
Saved from the axe
Seven years ago, the Australian Bureau of Statistics tried to scrap the five-year census, making it ten-yearly — like in the UK and the United States – to save money.
The outcry from planners and researchers who relied on the count resulted in the agency being awarded an additional $250 million to ensure it went ahead.
Tuesday is the first of three publications of census data. In October, the bureau will provide information about education and work and travel to work.
Early next year, it will release site-specific socioeconomic information and estimates of homelessness.
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