Millennials growing while religion declines, shows 2021 Census

By Chris Johnson

June 28, 2022

David Gruen
Not a peep about Generation X. David Gruen, Australian statistician. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Millennials are overtaking baby boomers as Australia’s largest generation and more people are reporting to have no religion at all, according to the latest census data just released.

Statistics from the 2021 Census began being rolled out Tuesday morning, showing the baby boomers and millennials groups each have more than 5.4 million people.

There were only 5,662 more baby boomers than millennials counted on August 10, 2021. But over the past decade, millennials have increased from 20.4% of the population in 2011 to 21.5% in 2021, while at the same time, baby boomer numbers dropped from 25.4% to 21.5%.

Australia’s statistician, David Gruen, said those numbers were quite revealing.

“The data collected by the census assists governments and community organisations to understand the needs of each generation. We see that an increasing number of baby boomers are needing assistance with core activities – with 7.4% reporting a need for assistance, compared to 2.8% across the younger generations,” he said.

“This information will help frame policy that delivers positive outcomes for our communities.”

Christianity remains the most common religion in Australia, with 43.9% identifying as such. But this number has reduced from 52.1% in 2016 and from 61.1% in 2011. 

More people, however, are reporting ‘no religion’ on the census, with 38.9% doing so – an increase from 30.1% in 2016 and 22.3% in 2011.

Other religions are growing but continue to make up a small proportion of the population, according to the data

“The religion question holds a special place in the Census – it is one of the few topics that has been in every one of Australia’s 18 Censuses and is the only question that is voluntary,” Gruen said.

“Despite being voluntary, we saw an increase in the proportion of people answering the question, from 91% in 2016 to 93% in 2021.

“Census religion data shows a characteristic of Australia that has changed significantly over the past two decades. Knowing about the religious affiliation across the population supports local planning for facilities, goods and services for Australians who identify as religious and helps them to live according to their beliefs.”

Gruen noted that the census was conducted at an unprecedented time in Australia’s history, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, 2 million more people were at home on census night in 2021 than were in 2016 and 96% of those who completed the survey did it at their own homes.

Census data will continue to be rolled out.


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