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City of SydneyPopulation forecast

Impact of COVID-19 on population growth

COVID-19 is a significant health crisis which has resulted in major social and economic disruption across the world. In Australia, the closure of borders (both external and internal) will have impacts on the size and distribution of future population growth. At a local level, the impacts on population growth and demographics outcomes will be felt differently.

.id developed population forecasts for City of Sydney in February 2019. These forecasts do not consider potential impacts to assumptions stemming from COVID-19. They do, however, provide a baseline by which to understand where the population may have been without this external shock.

In order to further understand how COVID-19 may impact population growth within City of Sydney, we have developed a COVID-19 impact assessment. This assessment is based upon our understanding of typologies (i.e. the characteristics, roles and functions of communities). It demonstrates how these influences may play out across a range of variables, at a localised level. These include:

  • Migration - who will move into an area as well as who is leaving the area.
  • Natural increase - impacts on the forecast numbers of births or deaths.
  • Economic resilience - availability of jobs.
  • Resident vulnerability - unmet social and economic needs.
  • Local amenity - factors that make an area a more enjoyable place to live.
The assessment draws on data from across our .id tools:,, and (including the COVID-19 economic forecasts developed and recently updated by NIEIR). We will continue to refine and update this impact assessment as more information becomes available.

Characteristics of Central Business District (CBD) areas

City of Sydney is one of seven local government areas in Australia that can be classified as a Central Business District (CBD) area.

Typical characteristics of CBD areas include:

  • local government areas that contain a Central Business District (CBD), providing a range of capital city functions, including civic, cultural and sporting facilities;
  • are central to a wider metropolitan region and are a significant driver of state and national economic activity;
  • provide a range of high-order commercial services to residents across the city and state, as well as to national and international markets;
  • contain housing which is predominantly high density, including student accommodation and social housing;
  • residential development opportunity which is limited to commercial conversions or brownfield opportunities;
  • attract large numbers of overseas migrants, which are mostly international students, but also permanent overseas migrants;
  • relatively high number of households are rented (private and social housing);
  • attracts large numbers of young adult residents drawn by proximity to education, entertainment and employment opportunities;
  • contain one or more large universities with a high share residents attending university; and
  • housing is generally more expensive compared to other metropolitan areas.

Potential impacts on CBD areas

Based on our understanding of the characteristics of CBD areas, we consider the following to be likely impacts on population growth. These insights are not necessarily specific to the City of Sydney, but reflect challenges and opportunities for this type of place.

Overseas migration

    Short to medium term impact from the shock to net overseas migration will be significant, as direct overseas migration contributes 135% of all people moving into or leaving CBD areas. Whereas people moving out to other areas account for -35% of total CBD net migration.

    Longer-term impact could be relatively less than other areas if Australia’s overseas migration intake returns to recent levels. This is because a large number of overseas migrants move into central locations, such as CBD areas as their first place of residence.

    Severe impact on future international student residents. The impact on the number of new international students will be severe nationally. COVID-19 will have some of the largest impacts on inner city areas which are close to large universities and are home to large numbers of international students.

Internal migration

    Interstate migration Due to internal border closures and economic uncertainty, CBD areas which typically experience net out-migration to other States will retain more residents in the short-term, while areas which typically experience net in-migration will not gain as many new residents.

    Intrastate migration CBD areas typically lose large numbers of residents to other places within the same state, particularly to suburban and growth areas, as many residents move out to purchase a home and/or start a family. Historic levels of net out-migration could continue under COVID-19, as suburban and growth areas will continue to be attractive places to live. However, in the medium-term these out-flows could decline due to the lower levels of overseas migration currently being experienced.

Natural increase

    Births are likely to be fewer in the short-term as fertility typically declines in times of economic uncertainty. CBD areas tend to have lower levels of fertility, which means they will be impacted less severely than other areas.

    Deaths caused by COVID-19 are currently at very low levels. This is due to low overall case numbers, however, the number of deaths could increase in CBD areas if outbreaks were seen in areas with relatively large numbers of vulnerable elderly residents. Generally, CBD areas have a very low proportion of residents aged over 70 years (and less exposure) compared to areas with a higher share of elderly residents.

Economic resilience

    Access to a range of metropolitan jobs, including higher-order service jobs will continue to be one of the most important drivers of population change and CBD area residents have typically enjoyed excellent access to a range of higher-order jobs. The short term COVID-19 impacts on employed residents in CBD areas are significant, particularly in Melbourne where a second ‘lockdown’ as a result of a second COVID-19 outbreak is being enforced. However, while COVID-19 is impacting employment severely, it will be CBD areas which will lead the national economic recovery.

    Jobs which are located within CBD areas will be negatively impacted by the economic shock caused by COVID-19. CBD areas have a greater share of higher order services jobs and will be affected more in the short-medium term than other areas.

Resident vulnerability

    COVID-19 will increase the likelihood of housing relocation among households who are already vulnerable due to factors such as, unemployment or insecure work, low income, and rental or mortgage stress. How this plays out in most CBD areas will be subtle and dependent on a number of factors including a greater likelihood of housing relocation among younger residents, who are currently spending a large proportion of income on rent, and who have recently become unemployed or joined JobKeeper.

    Moving house could affect household formation in several ways including: younger residents moving back home with their parents, students returning home or forming larger group households to share housing costs. In the case of areas with falling house values, there will be some residents unable to move resulting in an increase in housing stress. However, falling rental prices as vacancy increases may result in attracting residents.

Local amenity

    Access to quality open space and natural environment. Generally CBD areas do not have as much access to natural environment, such as beaches, mountains or parks, compared to other areas. This means that some residents may be attracted to other areas with more natural features.

    Quality health, education, transport, sporting and cultural infrastructure. CBD areas contain all these attributes and will have higher levels of other amenity, which will continue to be attractive to new residents, particularly as current restrictions continue to be eased.

*Parramatta is classified as a CBD area, however contains a relatively larger number of suburban areas.

City of Sydney


Migration is one of the most important components of population change. Net migration explains who will move into an area as well as who is leaving the area. It is therefore an excellent way of understanding housing markets and how the role and function of an area may be affected by COVID-19. Changes to migration may disproportionately affect industries such as the education sector due to their reliance on overseas migration.

DescriptionCity of SydneyGreater SydneyPotential impact
Overseas migration
Share of residents born overseas47.7%36.7%Negative impact
Overseas migration share of total net migration (2011 to 2016)110.6%139.9%Negative impact
Interstate migration
Interstate migration share of total net migration (2011 to 2016)4.7%-17.3%Negligible impact
Intrastate migration
Intrastate migration share of total net migration (2011 to 2016)-15.3%-22.6%Some negative impact
International student impacts
Residents attending university14.0%6.1%Negative impact
Residents attending TAFE2.8%1.9%Some negative impact

Natural increase

The size of the population increases through births and decline through deaths. The number of forecast births is an indication of the exposure the community has to changes to the fertility rate. The share of residents aged 70+ years provides an indication of the exposure the community has to changes to the mortality rate due to COVID-19.

Natural increase
DescriptionCity of SydneyGreater SydneyPotential impact
Natural increase
Natural increase share of forecast population growth (2020 to 2024)33.0%62.5%Some negative impact
Share of residents aged 70+ years (2020)5.6%10.4%Low exposure

Economic vulnerability

Economic vulnerability is an indicator of the degree to which COVID-19 may negatively impact the employment prospects of local residents. Communities with high gross regional product decline and/or high levels of local jobs declining are more likely to experience lower levels of population growth. Additionally, economies with scale and diversification may be more likely to retain, and/or attract residents relative to other areas.

Economic vulnerability
DescriptionCity of SydneyGreater SydneyPotential impact
Economic output
Gross regional product change-5.6%-14.7%Some negative impact
Local job impacts
Local job change-4.4%-9.2%Some negative impact
Local job change (including JobKeeper recipients)-6.2%-15.2%Some negative impact
Employed resident impacts
Employed resident change-5.5%-9.3%Some negative impact
Employed resident change (including JobKeeper recipients)-7.5%-15.5%Some negative impact
Share of residents who work in LGA64.5%--

Note: Impacts refer to September Quarter 2020 compared to September Quarter 2019

Source: National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) Version 2.0 (September 2020). ©2020 Compiled and presented in by .id (informed decisions).

Resident vulnerability

This indicator identifies communities with a high proportion of residents who have unmet social and economic needs (housing, income, education etc.) Due to COVID-19, these communities, particularly those with a younger, more mobile population, are expected to experience a greater change in how or where residents live (i.e. younger residents moving back home with their parents, formation of group households to share costs or leaving the area in search of employment opportunities elsewhere).

Resident vulnerability
DescriptionCity of SydneyGreater SydneyPotential impact
Socioeconomic vulnerability
SEIFA Rank (Disadvantage)1,0271,018Negligible impact
Disengaged youth of 15-24 year olds4.0%7.6%Negligible impact
Share of low income households18.2%15.1%Negative impact
Housing vulnerability
Share of households under housing stress13.2%11.8%Some negative impact
Mortgage vulnerability
Share of households owned with mortgage17.5%31.5%Low exposure
Share of households under mortgage stress7.9%10.3%Negligible impact
Rental vulnerability
Share of households privately rented47.3%27.6%Exposed
Share of households under rental stress21.1%26.4%Some negative impact
Residential mobility
Share population of 18-39 year olds59.3%33.0%Exposed

Local amenity

Local amenity considers the amenity a region provides its residents, with a particular focus on access to affordable housing and access to lifestyle opportunities. It is an indicator of the livability of an area, in the context of COVID-19.

Local amenity
DescriptionCity of SydneyGreater SydneyPotential impact
Housing Affordability
Housing Median Value$1,597,000$1,054,000Negative impact
Unit Median Value$895,000$753,000Some negative impact

Data updates

This page shows the latest version of how COVID-19 may impact population growth for City of Sydney. As new information becomes available (e.g. data revisions, additional data sets of relevance) updates will be applied.

Recent updates include:

  • 7 October 2020: Update to include National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) Version 2.1 (September 2020). NIEIR has estimated the potential impacts of coronavirus on economic activity, employment and sectors at the LGA level. Model outputs above are based on information available before September 24.
  • 25 September 2020: Update to include National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) Version 2.0 (September 2020).

Given the dynamic nature of COVID-19, revisions will be made to our population forecasts once sufficient data is available.


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