The world loves Sydney. Australians aren’t that fussed

Each day an average of 129 people leave Sydney for elsewhere in Australia. Only 85 move the other way.

While foreign immigrants continue to descend on Sydney, making it their gap-year playground, lifestyle retreat or refuge from danger, Australian residents would prefer to be elsewhere.

Behind the city’s well-publicised population growth is a little-known fact: Sydney loses more people to the rest of Australia than it gains, and has done so for more than four decades.

In fact, Census data collated exclusively for the Herald shows Sydney has lost people to every Australian capital city and state over the past 45 years on a net basis.

All up Sydney has lost net 716,832 people to the rest of Australia since 1971.Source: Census figures 1976-2016 comparing current address to five years prior

The city keeps growing due to its healthy birth rate and the fact it is a prime destination for foreign immigrants.

But the combination of an international inflow with a domestic outflow has radically shifted the city’s demographics.

In 1976, less than one in four Sydneysiders was foreign born. Forty years later the figure is nearly 40 per cent. 

    Where Sydneysiders come from and go to

    Every five years, the Census asks Australians where they’re living and where they lived five years ago.

    These provide snapshots of domestic migration trends over time, without capturing those who might come and go from a city inside the five years between censuses.

    Of the 2.1 million people recorded as having left Sydney for other parts of Australia since 1971, nearly half moved to regional NSW.

    This is part of a constant back-and-forth as people move to the city for work or education, and move out at different life stages. That said, 340,000 more people have left than arrived.

    In an urbanising world, only Sydney and Adelaide among Australian capitals have lost residents domestically over the past 20 years. Darwin has remained flat. Brisbane has boomed – thanks largely to the influx of Sydneysiders.

    More than half a million people have flocked from Sydney north of the border since 1971, nearly half of them to Brisbane.