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Australian Catholic population is better educated and more diverse than ever

Catholics are more diverse and better educated than ever, with higher levels of youth employment, according to a new breakdown of census statistics.

Published by National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) on 26 April 2023

The 2021 Social Profile of the Catholic Community in Australia, prepared by the National Centre for Pastoral Research provides a comprehensive snapshot of the millions of people who identified as Catholic in the 2021 Australia Census.

Some key religious affiliation statistics were released last year. They included the number of Catholics, which fell from around 5.3 million in 2016 to under 5.1 million in 2021. Catholics made up 22.6 per cent of the population in 2016; they represented 20 per cent of the population in 2021.

A snapshot of the Catholic community in Australian in 2021 includes the rising educational attainment levels of Catholics and the changing composition of Catholic households. Key statistics include:

  • There were nearly 2 million Catholic families in 2021, with around 2% of married couples having four or more children, and 10% with three or more

  • An increase in Catholic students attending Catholic schools – 55.4% in 2021 up from 53.7% in 2016

  • Increase in every area of educational attainment of Catholics

  • Less Catholic youth unemployment – down 3.5%

  • An increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics.

  • Australia’s Catholic population has become much more diverse, with 21% of all Catholics in Australia born in a non-English-speaking country

“Knowing the people who make up the Catholic population helps dioceses, parishes and other Catholic ministries better understand and serve their communities,” Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said in a media statement.

“The statistics in this report confirm what we are seeing in our parish communities – that they are becoming more and more culturally and linguistically diverse.

“We are fortunate to have such valuable information at our fingertips and we are grateful to the National Centre for Pastoral Research for its high-quality reports.”

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