Understanding South Australia's growing, changing population
The population of South Australia continues to grow and its composition is changing. The state government prepares population projections every five years, following the release of the Census of Population and Housing published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Population projections help us to understand the most likely future size, age structure and distribution of the population of the state. These projections are fundamental to urban, transport and infrastructure planning.
For more information about population projections email DPTI.PDPlanningInformation@sa.gov.au.
Our current population
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases estimates of the resident populations (ERP) of Australia and the states and territories on a quarterly basis. These estimates are based on the results of the most recent Census of Population and Housing which was conducted in 2016.
Current population of South Australia
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the preliminary estimated resident population (ERP) of South Australia at 30 June 2018 was 1,736,422 people.
This is an increase of 12,499 people since 30 June 2017 at an annual growth rate of 0.7%. Australia’s growth rate over the same period was 1.6%.
Population growth is driven by natural increase (births and deaths) and net migration (overseas and interstate). Net migration contributed 60% of South Australia’s population growth in the 12 months to June 2018. Strong positive net overseas migration helped to counter South Australia’s net interstate population losses.
(Year ended 30 June 2018).
More information is available from Australian Demographic Statistics - ABS catalogue 3101.0.
Current population of Greater Adelaide Capital City and Balance of South Australia
1,345,777 people were living in the Greater Adelaide GCCSA as at 30 June 2018, accounting for 77.5% of South Australia’s population*.
In the 12 months to 30 June 2018, the Greater Adelaide population increased by 11,339 persons at a growth rate of 0.8%. Over the same period, the Balance of SA increased by 1160 persons to a total population of 390,645.
* As per the latest available Australian Bureau of Statistics’ population estimates for local areas which are updated annually and ABS population estimates for the State level which are updated quarterly.
Current population of Local Government Areas (LGAs)
Of the Local Government Areas within Greater Adelaide, Onkaparinga (171,489) has the largest population, followed by Salisbury (142,555).
In the 12 months to 30 June 2018, Mount Barker recorded the highest growth rate (2.4%), while the combined Local Government Areas of Salisbury, Playford and Port Adelaide Enfield accounted for 32% (3,684) of Greater Adelaide’s actual population growth.
Mount Gambier has the largest population of the Local Government Areas outside of Greater Adelaide (27,176) and experienced an increase of 141 persons in the 12 months to 30 June 2018. Whyalla’s population declined by 238 persons over the same period. Robe, Copper Coast and Streaky Bay shared the highest annual population growth rate in Regional SA, each at 1.5%.
View current population data in the Location SA Map Viewer
Recent population change
The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure monitors population change annually at different geographic levels.
Population change in South Australia
At 2013, South Australia’s population was 1.67 million and by 2018 had grown to 1.74 million at an average annual increase of 12,987 persons and a growth rate of 0.8%.
Population change is driven by natural increase (births and deaths) and net migration (overseas and interstate). Over the past 5 years, net migration has contributed an average of 6360 persons per year. The contribution made by each growth component is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: South Australia's components of growth, average annual change 2013-18
Source: ABS 3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics (released 21 March 2019)
*Components of population growth were not rebased according to 2016 Census results. As such they do not sum to recorded population growth.
Figure 3 shows the population change components by year since 2006. Between 2007 and 2010 large increases in net overseas migration were the major driver of increased population growth. However, declines in net overseas migration coupled with increasing net interstate migration losses slowed South Australia's population growth to 2016. Since 2017 increases in net overseas migration and a reduction in the level of interstate migration have boosted the state’s population growth.
Natural increase has remained relatively steady since 2006 although has started a slight decline in recent years due to an ageing population and decreasing fertility rates.
Figure 3: Annualised population growth by components of change, South Australia 2006-18
Source: ABS 3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics (released 21 March 2019)
Population change in Greater Adelaide Capital City and Balance of South Australia
The Greater Adelaide Capital City region accounts for 77.5% of the State’s total population at 2018. Between 2013 and 2018 this region grew by just over 56,000 persons from 1.29 million to 1.35 million at an average of 11,216 persons or 0.9% per year – see Figure 4.
86.4% of South Australia's total population growth between 2013 and 2018 occurred in the Greater Adelaide Capital City region.
All five Greater Adelaide Capital City sub regions experienced population growth during this period. The regions with the greatest growth were:
- Adelaide - North which increased by 25,034 people to reach 438,493 persons
- Adelaide - South with a gain of 12,109 people to reach 367,837 people.
Between 2013 and 2018, the City of Adelaide recorded an average annual growth rate of 2.4% due to a significant number of apartment and student accommodation developments.
Figure 4: Annual population growth, Greater Adelaide Capital City and Balance of South Australia, 2013-18
The Balance of South Australia's population increased by 8853 persons between 2013 and 2018 to reach 390,645 persons at an average of 1771 persons or 0.46% per year - see Figure 4.
Of the six regions in the Balance of South Australia, four experienced population growth during this period with the Outback - North and East region and Eyre Peninsula and South West region experiencing small declines. The regions with the greatest growth were Barossa - Yorke - Mid North and Fleurieu - Kangaroo Island, both of which increased by over 3,500 persons during the period.
Population change in Greater Adelaide Capital City Local Government Areas (LGAs)
Between 2013 and 2018 the Playford, Salisbury, Port Adelaide Enfield and Charles Sturt LGAs experienced the greatest increase in population, with each gaining more than 6000 residents - see Figure 5.
The middle ring metropolitan LGAs of Charles Sturt and Marion experienced population increases of 6050 and 4550 persons respectively, largely due to residential infill development. Significant population increases were also recorded in the City of Adelaide, West Torrens, Marion and Onkaparinga LGAs.
The LGAs of Gawler and Mount Barker also experienced significant population increases mainly through greenfield housing developments.
The City of Adelaide recorded an average annual growth rate of 2.4% as a result of numerous apartment developments. Mount Barker and Gawler both had an average annual growth rate of above 2.0% with Playford at 1.9%.
Figure 5: Population change by Local Government Area, 2013-18 (Greater Adelaide Capital City)
Population change in Balance of South Australia Local Government Areas (LGAs)
There were significant disparities in population change in the Balance of South Australia LGAs between 2013-18 (see Figure 6). 32 LGAs experienced population growth, compared to 19 with no population growth or declines.
Alexandrina LGA which includes the townships of Strathalbyn and Goolwa, recorded the greatest increase in population at 1834 persons which is likely due to its close proximity to Adelaide. The next largest increase was in Murray Bridge, which experienced an increase of 1,439 persons, then Copper Coast 1125 persons and Mount Gambier 751 persons.
At 3.0% Yankalilla LGA had the highest annual average growth rate followed by the Lower Eyre Peninsula, which contains the population centres of Cummins and Coffin Bay, with 1.7%.
Whyalla LGA and Unincorporated SA, which covers land outside council areas including much of outback South Australia, recorded the greatest population declines during the 2013-18 period.
Figure 6: Population change by Local Government Area, 2013-18 (Balance of South Australia)
Population change of South Australia vs other states
Over the 2013-18 period South Australia recorded a more modest average annual growth rate of 0.8%, compared to other jurisdictions in Australia with the exception of Tasmania and the Northern Territory - see Figure 7.
As a result of this, South Australia's share of the national population has decreased from 7.2% in 2013 to 6.9% in 2018.
Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have enjoyed the nation's highest growth rates over the last five years.
Figure 7: Annual Average Growth, Australian States and Territories, 2013-18
The three most populous states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland accounted for 87% (1,630,607 persons) of Australia's population growth between 2013 and 2018, compared to 3.5% for South Australia.
Our future population
The state government provides population projections at several geographic levels which are updated every five years. These projections follow the release of final figures from the most recent Census of Population and Housing published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Population projections for South Australian and regions 2016-2041
These population projections comprise three series (high, medium and low) that reflect the likely range of population futures for South Australia and regions. The medium series is the likely outcome at the time of publication, while the high and low series enable management of risks if a population trend that is higher or lower than the medium series emerges.
The projections are based on the final results from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing and supersede those published in 2015. The South Australian Cabinet endorsed the projections for use by State agencies on 17 June 2019.
The report on Population projections for South Australia and statistical divisions 2016-2041 (PDF, 3025 KB) summarises the assumptions used to develop the projections and outlines the demographic context of the projection outcomes and their demographic significance.
The below three-page visualisation summarises projected population and demographic change for South Australia and regions. You can also view this visualisation in a new window.
Explanatory notes about using population projections
Users of these projections should carefully read these explanatory notes before downloading the projections.
Population projections are not forecasts of the future. They are estimates of the future size, age structure and geographic distribution of populations based on particular assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration.
There are 11 population projections regions in South Australia which are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) SA3 and SA4 boundaries (ABS ASGS definitions).
There are 5 population regions in Greater Adelaide Capital City which are part of the ABS Greater Capital City statistical area:
- Inner Metro
- Adelaide - North
- Adelaide - South
- Adelaide - West
- Adelaide Hills
There are 6 population regions in the Balance of South Australia:
- Barossa - Yorke - Mid North
- Fleurieu - Kangaroo Island
- Murray and Mallee
- Limestone Coast
- Eyre Peninsula and South West
- Outback - North East