There is concern in the community about the Labor government’s population plans for Greater Perth. There is a positive alternative to the high population density plan of the McGowan government. The Western Australia Party (WAP) is proposing steady population growth based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population projections.

ABS Population projections

The ABS population assumptions have been formulated on the basis of demographic trends over the past decade and more. Over the past 15 years Australia underwent unprecedented levels of Net Overseas Migration (NOM). Reaching the highest levels on record in 2009 at 300,000 and the second highest in 2008 at 277,000.[1]

As a result the ABS projection Series is skewed towards upper level growth rates compared to longer historical trends.

There is a better way for Greater Perth – a medium growth scenario

At Population Research WA we have explored the ABS medium population scenario. This tends to match longer-term demographic trends in Western Australia such as natural increase over the past 30 years.  

Fertility rates have been on the decline in WA from a replacement level of 2.10 in 2008 to around 1.8 in 2018.[2] The longer-range assumption is that fertility rates around 1.8 will prevail over the next few decades.[3] [4]

As is revealed in Chart 1 the WAP migration policy would seek to supplement natural increase rate with lower levels of net overseas migration – compared to the McGowan Government’s high immigration strategies. This would maintain economic growth, but with much less social disruption and environmental impacts.

The Western Australia Party will keep tighter reins on overseas migration

The huge increases in NOM over the past two decades are due to the Australian government implementing uncapped temporary worker programs and foreign student migration.

State migration policy has significant clout, State nominated visas form part of the nations permanent migration program.[5] The main controls on migration are conducted through State visa occupation lists. When a government expands the list, prospective migrants flock to the State or Territory, which offer the most visas and job opportunities. Vice versa a containment policy, targeting very high skilled professions, is a good mechanism to restrict State migration inflows. Especially when unemployment is high.   

This is the mechanism the WAP would use to manage State migration. This could be a key strategy to developing lower population growth scenarios, compared to the McGowan government’s high growth strategy.

West Australian’s would be prioritised in the local job market. Occupation lists would be restricted until Western Australia’s unemployment levels dropped well below 7%.

(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3222.0 Population Projections.[6])

The misleading representation of Australia’s dependency ratio 

The total dependency ratio is the number of non-working-age persons less than 15 years and 65 years and over, divided by the number of working-age persons 15 to 64 years.  It measures the burden caused by non-working people on a nation’s working-age population.[7]

There is lots of misleading commentary about the dependency ratio in Australian politics and media. It is mostly one sided. Vested interest groups propagate economic fears that that mass immigration is the only way to grow the economy and provide the taxes to fund age and youth dependency.

They ignore the negative impacts. As immigration levels go up births increases the proportion of children rather than working-age people.[8] This is what happened when immigration rocketed to its highest ever levels in Australia in 2008 and 2009, the dependency ratio has continued to rise since (click on link below). Mass immigration lobbyists brush aside the fact that immigrants also age and contribute to the growth of the older population.[9]


The Western Australia Party disputes the mass immigration proponents. High skilled migrants add to productivity and should be used to complement West Australia’s workforce and not substitute. Chart 1 reveals the Western Australia Party have a much lower NOM target than the McGowan government. The dependency ratio remains at stable levels. On the other hand the Labor government dependency ratio is set to increase due to their very high immigration program. This will have an economic impact and will not be fixed by heightened levels of NOM.


[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3105.0.65.001 – Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2016’, 2019 <> [accessed 18 December 2019].

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Births, Australia, 2018 | Australian Bureau of Statistics’, 2019 <> [accessed 18 November 2020].

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Births, Australia, 2018 | Australian Bureau of Statistics’.

[4] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Births, Australia, 2018 | Australian Bureau of Statistics’.

[5] Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, ‘Migration Program Planning Levels’, 2020 <> [accessed 14 May 2020].

[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3222.0 – Population Projections, Australia, 2017 (Base) – 2066’, 2018 <> [accessed 5 May 2019].

[7] ‘What Is the Dependency Ratio?’, The Balance, 2020 <> [accessed 18 November 2020].

[8] Leith van Onselen, ‘Report: Why Australia Shouldn’t Fear an Ageing Population – MacroBusiness’, 2020 <> [accessed 30 November 2020].

[9] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 2014’ (c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014) <> [accessed 26 November 2020].

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s