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CUT-PRICE international air travel, an increasingly globalised job market and the lure of greener pastures are tempting more Australians to leave our shores for good.

The number of people leaving permanently increased by 18 per cent in the five years to 2010, the latest snapshot of social trends by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows.

But the number who tick the permanent departure box on their passenger cards is higher than the number who actually stay away.

''Each year, many Australians plan to leave the country permanently but most return to Australia within a year of their departure,'' the bureau reported. In 2010 of the 84,000 Australian residents who said they were departing permanently, only 17,000 (20 per cent) spent 12 months or more overseas.

Fewer people left for good in 2005, 2008 and 2009 but more left in 2010. About 75 people in every 100,000 who left in 2010 did not return.

They were more likely to be women, aged between 20 and 39, often with young children and not born in Australia. Of the 17,000 who left permanently, 61 per cent were born overseas with the highest numbers coming from New Zealand and Britain.

Plain old homesickness or ''lack of satisfactory employment'' were possible reasons, the bureau's report said.

''Younger migrants may return to their country of birth because they are needed by their family,'' it said.

''Conversely, over the long term, migrants may return after successful employment and increased wealth, for retirement, family formation and dissolution, or when conditions have improved.''

But the number of permanent arrivals remains considerably higher than departures.

The report also highlighted the shrinking number of farmers, which was a problem given the growing food demands of countries such as China.

Despite Australians' enduring love affair with the idea of life on the land, the number of those listing farmer as occupation dropped by 40 per cent in the 30 years to 2011.

''The number of farmers in Australia has been declining for many decades as small farmers sell up to large-scale farming operations and fewer young people take over family farms,'' the bureau found. There were 19,700 fewer farmers in Australia in 2011 than in 2006.

Between 1981 and 2011 the number declined by 106,200, an average of 294 fewer farmers every month. Those who remained on the land were generally older than other workers, with an average age of 53 compared with 40 for people in other jobs, the bureau found.