Population

The state government monitors the population of South Australia which continues to grow and change.

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).

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.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated the resident population of South Australia at 30 December 2020 was 1,770,790 people.

This is an increase of 299 people since September 2020, and 9,401 people since 30 December 2019 at an annual growth rate of 0.5%. Australia’s growth rate over the same period was 0.5%.

Population growth is driven by:

  • natural increase (births and deaths)
  • net migration (overseas and interstate).

Net migration contributed 48% of South Australia’s population growth in the 12 months to December 2020. Net interstate migration improved with a gain of 98 persons, which is positive for the first time since 1992. Net overseas migration gain has decreased significantly as a result of international border closures associated with COVID-19, with an increase of just 4,414 persons. This is significantly less than the gain of 16,600 for the 12 months to December 2019.

Natural increase has remained steady with a gain of 4,889 persons, contributing to 52% of South Australia’s population growth in the 12 months to December 2020.

South Australia's components of growth, annualised to December 2020

Infographic demonstrating the population growth across South Australia, outlined in the section above
Overview

This chart shows South Australia's components of growth, annualised to June 2020

Values
Component of growthGrowth
Births 18,911
Deaths -13,994
Natural Increase 4,917
Net overseas migration 13,881
Net interstate migration -2,160
Net migration 11,721
Annual population growth to June 2020 16,638

(Year ended 30 December 2020).

More information is available from Australian Demographic Statistics - ABS catalogue 3101.0.

1,376,601 people were living in the Greater Adelaide GCCSA as at 30 June 2020, accounting for 77.8% of South Australia’s population*.

In the 12 months to 30 June 2020, the Greater Adelaide population increased by 16,127 persons at a growth rate of 1.2%. Over the same period, the Balance of SA increased by 1567 persons to a total population of 393,774.

* 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.

Of the Local Government Areas within Greater Adelaide, Onkaparinga (174,575) has the largest population, followed by Salisbury (144,872), Port Adelaide Enfield (129,530) and Charles Sturt (120,733).

In the 12 months to 30 June 2020, Adelaide Plains recorded the highest growth rate (3.4%), followed by Mount Barker (3.2%), Adelaide (2.5%), Yankalilla (1.9%) and Playford (1.8%).

The middle ring metropolitan Local Government Areas of Marion, Charles Sturt and Port Adelaide Enfield combined accounted for 30% (4,803) of Greater Adelaide’s actual population growth, while the outer ring metropolitan LGA’s of Onkaparinga, Salisbury and Playford combined accounted for 28% (4,577).

Mount Gambier has the largest population of the Local Government Areas outside of Greater Adelaide (27,433) and experienced an increase of 159 persons in the 12 months to 30 June 2020. Port Augusta’s population declined by 163 persons over the same period, while Whyalla’s population declined by 157 persons.

Recent population change

The Attorney-General's Department monitors population change annually at different geographic levels.

South Australia’s population was 1.7 million in 2015 and by 2020 had grown to 1.77 million, an average increase of around 13,400 people per year and a growth rate of 0.78%.

Population change is driven by:

  • natural increase (births and deaths)
  • net migration (overseas and interstate).

Over the past 5 years, net migration has contributed an average of around 8,000 people per year.

South Australia's components of growth, average annual change 2015-20

Infographic demonstrating the average annual change in population across South Australia during 2015-20: births 19223; deaths -13795; natural increase 5428; net overseas migration 12907; net interstate migration -4935; net migration 7972; with a total average annual population growth of 13401 at a growth rate of 0.78% per annum

Annualised population growth by components of change, South Australia 2006-20

Between 2007 and 2010 large increases in net overseas migration were the major driver of increased population growth.

Declines in net overseas migration coupled with increasing net interstate migration losses slowed South Australia's population growth to 2016.

Between 2017 and 2019 increases in net overseas migration and a reduction in net interstate migration losses have boosted the state’s population growth. Recent impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in a decline in overseas migration, offset partly by further reduction in net interstate migration loss.

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.

Source: ABS 3101.0 -Australian Demographic Statistics (released 17 December 2020)

The Greater Adelaide Capital City region accounts for 77.8% of the state’s total population at 2020. Between 2015 and 2020 this region grew by 63,182 persons from 1.31 million to almost 1.38 million at an average of 12,636 persons or 0.96% per year.

90.6% of South Australia's total population growth between 2015 and 2020 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 24,014 people to reach 448,458.
  • Adelaide - South with a gain of 14,515 people to reach 374,910.

The Balance of South Australia's population increased by 6525 people between 2015 and 2020 to reach 393,774 at an average growth rate of 0.34%.

Of the six regions in the Balance of South Australia, four experienced population growth during this period. The region with the greatest growth was Fleurieu - Kangaroo Island which increased by over 3300 people during the period, followed by Barossa – Yorke – Mid North, with a growth of 2550. The Outback - North East region experienced a decline of 1600 people.

The annual population growth for Greater Adelaide Capital City and the Balance of South Australia for 2015 to 2020 is displayed in the figure below.


Annual population growth, Greater Adelaide Capital City and Balance of SA, 2015-20

Graph illustrating the population growth across the greater adelaide capital city and balance of South Australia for 2015-20

Between 2015 and 2020 the Playford, Port Adelaide Enfield, Charles Sturt, Salisbury and Onkaparinga LGAs experienced the greatest population growth, with each gaining more than 6000 residents.

The middle ring metropolitan LGAs of Port Adelaide Enfield, Charles Sturt, and Marion experienced significant population increases largely due to residential infill development. The outer ring metropolitan LGAs of Playford, Salisbury, Onkaparinga and Mount Barker saw population increases as a result of greenfield housing developments.

Mount Barker recorded the largest average annual growth rate of 2.75%, followed by Adelaide (2.7%) and Gawler (1.8%).


Top 10 Local Government Areas by Population change, 2015-20 (Greater Adelaide Capital City)

Graph illustrating the top 10 Greater Adelaide Capital City Local Government Areas by population change for 2015-20

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 2015-20. 29 LGAs experienced a growth in population, compared to 22 experiencing a decline.

Alexandrina LGA which includes the townships of Strathalbyn and Goolwa, recorded the greatest increase in population at 1673 people which is likely due to its close proximity to Adelaide. The next largest increase was in Murray Bridge, with 1573 additional people, followed by the Barossa with 1416.

At 2.3% Yankalilla LGA had the highest annual average growth rate followed by Murray Bridge (1.5%) and Adelaide Plains (1.4%).

Whyalla LGA recorded the greatest population declines during the 2015-20 period with a loss of 1164 people, followed by Port Augusta which declined by 745 people.

Over the 2015-20 period South Australia recorded a modest average annual growth rate of 0.8%, which was the lowest of all states and territories other than Northern Territory. In comparison, the eastern states of Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT experienced a growth rate greater than 1.5%.

South Australia's share of the national population has decreased from 7.1% in 2015 to 6.9% in 2020.

The three most populous states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland accounted for 86% (1,624,206 people) of Australia's population growth between 2015 and 2020, compared to 3.7% for South Australia.


Annual Average Growth, Australian States and Territories, 2015-20

Graph illustrating the annual average growth rate across Australian states and territories for 2015-20

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 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.

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 following three visualisations summarise projected population and demographic change for South Australia and regions. You can also view these visualisations 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.


The report Local Area (SA2 and LGA) Population projections for South Australia, 2016 to 2036 (PDF, 6497 KB) provides a summary of the Local Area Population Projections for SA to 2036. These projections follow on from, and are concordant with, the State and regional population projections for 2016 to 2041 released in June 2019. Local area projections (SA2 and LGA) are based on the medium series population projection for each region.

In South Australia there are 172 SA2s and these projections have been constrained to the 11 population projection regions. Population projections for the 68 LGAs were derived from the SA2 results. The time horizon for the SA2 level projections is from 2016 to 2036. This is 5 years less than the State and regional projections due to the greater uncertainty associated with population projections for small geographic areas.

Population regions

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

Map of population regions

Map of population regions along the coast. Moving from South to North along the coast, the first region is Limestone Coast incorporating Mount Gambier, Millicent, Naracoorte, Kingston SE and Bordertown. The next region is Murray and Mallee, incorporating Pinnaroo, Renmark and Murray Bridge. The next region is Barossa - Yorke - Mid North, incorporating Victor Harbor, Kingscote, Nuriootpa, Moonta, Clare, Port Pirie and Peterborough. The next region is Eyre Peninsula and South West, incorporating Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Wudinna and Ceduna. The inland region is Outback North and South, incorporating Port Augusta, Woomera, Roxby Downs and Cooper Pedy. An insert in the Barossa region shows Greater Adelaide Capital City and Statistical Area which consists of Adelaide hills region incorporating Mount Barker, Adelaide South region incorporating McLaren Vale and Onkaparinga, Inner Metro region, Inner West region and Adelaide North incorporating Salisbury and Gawle. Link opens larger version of map.