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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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This update looks at World Population Day and how Sydney has been shaped through immigration. We also look at where Sydneysiders live and work, and where people are moving within NSW.


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Celebrating World Population Day

World Population Day on 11 July is a chance to reflect on Sydney’s place in the world as a global city. Sydney’s connection to the rest of the world is seen in the people who live here. Across Sydney, more than one in three people were born overseas (38%). Almost two-thirds of all Sydneysiders (63%) have at least one parent born overseas. Most of the population (82%) has an ancestry other than Australian. Sydneysiders who were born overseas or whose parents were born overseas are found at all age groups. We can see the impact of Australia’s long history of immigration by looking at the age profiles in Figure 1. Multiculturalism in Sydney is multi-generational.


Figure 1: Per cent distribution by age of Sydney’s population by cultural diversity measures




The impact of migration in Sydney can be seen across all parts of the city. Even in those places with fewer than 20 per cent of the population born overseas (Blue Mountains, Camden, Hawkesbury, Sutherland Shire and Woollahra), half to three quarters of the population have an ancestry other than Australian (Figure 2).


Areas where Sydney’s links to the rest of the world are most pronounced are Auburn, Burwood, Canterbury, Fairfield and Strathfield (local government area (LGA) boundaries at the time of the 2011 Census). In each of these areas, more than half the population was born overseas. Most people (80-90%) have at least one parent born overseas and more than 90 per cent have an ancestry other than Australian. Only seven Sydney LGAs had more than 50 per cent of its population with both parents born in Australia.

Figure 2: Per cent of population by country of birth of self, parent and ancestry by LGA (boundaries as at 2011 Census)


Click to enlarge graph


It’s not surprising that many people living in Sydney were born overseas given Australia’s long immigration history. From involuntary convict migration and those following the gold rush in the 19th century, Australia has always had others settle here. More recently we’ve seen the wave of post-WWII migrants to the current inflow of skilled and student migrants.


Historically, the largest source countries for immigration have been the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. These countries are still a significant source for immigration, but China and India are increasingly important as these countries have the largest populations in the world.


Based on current Federal migration policies, current levels of overseas migration are likely to remain. This includes permanent migrants, those on temporary visas such as students, and returning Australians. Immigrants are likely to continue coming from China and India as well as those from the UK and New Zealand with long-standing links to Australia. Continued immigration means we will continue to see diverse cultures reflected across Sydney and for people of all ages.


The history of Sydney’s population is inextricably linked to where people and their families come from. On World Population Day, Sydney can celebrate its place as a global city through its people.

Journeys to work 

Where Sydneysiders live and where they work are closely related. While there are long distance commuters, the majority of people want to live close to their job. Living close to work is one way we balance home and work life. This relationship between home and work shapes the geography of local labour markets. In turn, it shapes the available skills and training mix at a local-level and influences where businesses choose to locate. This is especially important for knowledge (IT and research) and service employers.


How these relationships play out across Sydney is shown in the map. The focus is on the twin CBDs of the city centre (defined as Sydney LGA) and Parramatta (defined as the new City of Parramatta LGA). While the city centre contains around four times as many jobs as Parramatta (400,000 in central Sydney compared to 100,000 in Parramatta), there is a distinct geography. Blue areas show where Parramatta workers live and green areas show where central Sydney workers live. Where people travel to either location, the colours merge to produce shades of aqua-marine.


The below map illustrates the work geography of Sydney CBD and Parramatta. The map analysis is based on where people who work in either Sydney CBD or Parramatta live. Both locations have distinctly different foot prints. People working in Sydney CBD tend to be living on the lower north shore, eastern suburbs or inner west. People working in Parramatta tend to live through most of north and west Sydney. Mixing of destinations can be seen in an arc running from Pennant Hills in the north through to Panania in the south.



Click to enlarge map


The colours are fainter in places where fewer people work in either Parramatta or Sydney. This can be seen in much of Fairfield and Liverpool. It shows that residents in large parts of western Sydney  don’t work in either of Greater Sydney’s core CBDs. More research is needed to understand if this is due to poor transport links, a mismatch of skills and training to the employment sectors in Parramatta or Sydney or other factors.

The work geography of Sydney CBD


Click to enlarge map


The work geography Parramatta


Click to enlarge map


Migration within NSW

Internal migration refers to moves made within NSW and includes all people who moved from one address to another with the state. Each Census includes a question asking people where they live on Census night and where they lived five years ago. This question helps us understand NSW’s internal migration.  

Where do people move within NSW?

There is a history of people moving between Sydney and other parts of the state, with two trends standing out. The net balance of in and out movements between regions has gone down over time. In all regions the smaller number of moves is because of fewer people arriving from other parts of the state and fewer people leaving. Secondly, more people leave Sydney to live in other parts of NSW compared to the number of people moving to Sydney from elsewhere in the state. 

The below graph shows more people leaving Sydney each year for other parts of NSW, compared to the number of people who arrive from regional NSW and the urban neighbours of Central Coast, Lower Hunter and the Illawarra.  


Why is this important?

Populations can only grow or decline because of births, deaths and migration. All affect population change, both the size of the population and the age profile of the people living in certain places. Understanding the movement of people from one part of the state to another helps us understand the demand for particular services and infrastructure.

On 9 August 2016, you will be asked to fill in the Census including a question about where you lived five years ago. When we get the results we’ll be able to see if it’s still the case that more Sydneysiders are moving to regional NSW compared to moves in the other direction.