Australia population expands at brisk 2.1 pct year

SYDNEY Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:46am IST

A computer-generated image  shows Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia circa 2050. REUTERS/Arup's proposal for the Australian Institute of Architects' Venice Biennale exhibition/Handout

A computer-generated image shows Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia circa 2050.

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's population rose a brisk 2.1 percent last year, just a whisker from the fastest pace in four decades and a boost to demand for everything from consumer goods to housing and infrastructure.

Government data out Thursday showed 451,900 more people called Australia home in the 12 months to end September, taking the total to 22.07 million. The growth pace of 2.1 percent was almost twice the global average of 1.1 percent, and far above most rich nations.

The natural rate of increase, births minus deaths, stood at 154,500, while net migration added 297,400. The Bureau of Statistics also revised up past immigration numbers to show a net addition of 77,300 people in the two years to September.

The rapid rise in population helped Australia dodge a recession last year as the global financial crisis raged.

"Population growth to a major extent underpins the domestic growth story," said James Craig, chief equities economist at CommSec.

"More people translates to increased spending and demand for homes, and as a result, increased momentum for our economy," he added. "And while population has been going backwards in Japan and stagnating across the European nations, Australia is moving ahead."

The sharp lift in migration is also serving to reduce the extent to which the population is ageing, since migrants tend to be younger on average, thus reducing the demands on health and other social resources.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Ed Davies)

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