Canberra, Sep 14 (IANS) High overseas migration has driven Australia’s rate of population growth to its highest level in 15 years, according to official data issued on Thursday.

The data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that the country’s population grew by 2.17 per cent in the 12 months to the end of March to 26.47 million people, reports Xinhua news agency.

It marked the highest annual growth rate since the population grew by 2.19 pe rcent in the 12 months to the end of December 2008.

Beidar Cho, head of demography at the ABS, said in a media release on Thursday that an influx of migrants in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest factor in the population surge.

“Thirteen months after international borders were re-opened, net overseas migration accounted for 81 per cent of growth and added 454,400 people to the population in the year to March 2023,” he said.

By comparison, in the 12 months to the end of March 2022 the population grew by 1.0 per cent, with Australia’s international borders closed for the majority of that span.

ABS data showed that 681,000 migrants arrived in Australia in the year to March 2023, an increase of 103 per cent from the previous year, and 226,600 people left the country to live overseas.

Natural increase in the population was 108,800 people, with 301,200 births and 192,300 deaths registered in the year to March.

Deaths were 7.9 per cent higher than the 12 months to March 2022 and births 3.4 per cent lower.

Population growth over the 12 months was highest in the state of Western Australia at 2.8 per cent and lowest in the island state of Tasmania at 0.4 per cent.