regional towns

Has COVID really caused an exodus from our cities?

PHOTO: Has there actually been an exodus from the cities to our regional towns? Photo: Emily Godfrey

Internal migration resulted in a net loss of 11,200 people from Australia’s capital cities in the September quarter of 2020, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data released this month.

At the same time, some regional areas experienced significant growth in house prices as demand for properties increased. So this has raised the questions: are we starting to see an exodus from our cities, and is this related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

To work out what is happening there are a few important things to consider.

In Australia we move a lot

The first thing to keep in mind is that Australia has one of the most internally mobile populations in the world. About 40 per cent of the population change their addresses at least once within a five-year period. However, the level of internal migration within Australia has fallen since the 1990s.


The greatest fall has been for long-distance moves between Australia cities and regions, which declined by 25% between 1991 and 2016. Moves between states and territories fell by 16% over this period. An increase or decrease in internal migration from year to year is not unusual.

chart showing net internal migration figures from September quarter 2010 to September quarter 2020
Data: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Regional internal migration estimates, CC BY

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