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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1997  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/06/1997   
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Contents >> Population >> Composition: Birthplace of overseas-born Australians

Composition: Birthplace of overseas-born Australians

While the majority of Australia's overseas- born population have come from the United Kingdom and other European countries, the Asian born are a rapidly growing segment.

Australian governments have actively supported immigration for most of this century. This support, together with continued expansion in the range of countries from which immigrants have been drawn, has created the unique multicultural society we have today.

The overseas-born population has increased in number from 2.8 million in 1976 to 4.2 million in 1996 (rising from 20% to 23% of Australia's total population). In 1976 the top six birthplace groups were from European countries and accounted for 70% of all people born overseas. By 1996, the top six groups only accounted for 53% of the total overseas-born population and included people born in New Zealand (now the second largest group) and Viet Nam.

People from the United Kingdom and Ireland still form the largest group. However, their number as a proportion of the total overseas-born population has declined, falling from 41% in 1976 to 29% in 1996. While the number of people from these countries was still higher in 1996 than in 1976, it has fallen since 1991.

There has also been a decline in the size of populations from other European countries. For example, Italian and Greek populations, the second and third largest in 1976, have declined numerically and proportionally.

The Asian-born population has grown rapidly, particularly in the last decade. In 1996 people born in Asian countries represented 22% of all people born overseas, and 5 of the top 12 birthplace groups were from Asian countries. The Vietnamese population, Australia's largest Asian birthplace group, increased from 2,500 in 1976 to 149,900 in 1996.

The combined population from the main English speaking countries (MESC) of United Kingdom and Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America and South Africa continues to grow, but at a slower rate than the population from predominantly non-English speaking countries (NESC). In 1996 the NESC population represented 61% of those born overseas compared to 54% in 1976.

OVERSEAS-BORN POPULATION: TOP 12 BIRTHPLACE GROUPS

Countries
1976
Countries
1986
Countries
1996p



%
%
%

1UK and Ireland
41.1
UK and Ireland
34.7
UK and Ireland
28.7
2Italy
10.3
Italy
8.0
New Zealand
7.1
3Greece
5.7
New Zealand
6.4
Italy
6.1
4Yugoslavia
5.3
Yugoslavia
4.7
Former Yugoslav Republics
4.4
5Germany
4.0
Greece
4.3
Viet Nam
3.6
6Netherlands
3.4
Germany
3.6
Greece
3.4
7New Zealand
3.2
Netherlands
3.0
Germany
2.8
8Poland
2.1
Viet Nam
2.6
China
2.5
9Malta
2.1
Poland
2.1
Hong Kong and Macau
2.3
10USSR
1.9
Malta
1.8
Netherlands
2.3
11India
1.4
Lebanon
1.8
Malaysia
2.3
12Lebanon
1.2
India
1.5
Philippines
2.2
Other
18.3
Other
25.6
Other
32.2
Total
100.0
Total
100.0
Total
100.0
MESC(a)
46.5
MESC(a)
44.1
MESC(a)
39.5
NESC(b)
53.5
NESC(b)
55.9
NESC(b)
60.5

(a) Main English speaking countries.
(b) Non-English speaking countries.

Source: Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0).


Birthplace groups

Main English speaking countries (MESC) - consists of United Kingdom and Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America and South Africa.

Non-English speaking countries (NESC) - all overseas countries except United Kingdom and Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America and South Africa.

Former Yugoslav Republics - consists of Bosnia-Herzegovnia, Croatia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republics of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.

GROWTH IN MAJOR BIRTHPLACE GROUPS

1976
1996p
Change 1976–96
Major birthplace groups (1996)
'000
'000
'000

UK and Ireland
1,166.7
1,207.6
40.9
New Zealand
90.1
297.5
207.4
Italy
291.1
258.8
-32.3
Yugoslavia(a)
151.2
186.2
35.0
Viet Nam
2.5
149.9
147.4
Greece
162.1
144.6
-17.5
Germany
112.8
118.9
6.1
China
20.1
103.4
83.3
Hong Kong and Macau
8.9
98.0
89.1
Netherlands
97.1
97.3
0.2
Malaysia
19.9
96.1
76.2
Philippines
5.8
94.7
88.9
Other
707.9
1,356.0
648.1
Total overseas-born
2,836.2
4,209.0
1,372.8
MESC(b)
1,318.4
1,661.2
342.8
NESC(c)
1,517.8
2,547.8
1,030.0

(a) Former Yugoslavia Republics.
(b) Main English speaking countries.
(c) Non-English speaking countries.

Source: Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0).


Migration since World War II
The size and composition of the annual intake of migrants to Australia has varied considerably since World War II. These changes were influenced by many factors including economic and political conditions in countries of origin and Australia, and changes in Australian Government policies (see Australian Social Trends 1994, Birthplaces of Australian settlers).

Before World War II the vast majority of settlers came from the United Kingdom and Ireland. In 1947 however, Australia began to accept large numbers of displaced persons from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, the Netherlands and Italy. During the 1950s the number of settlers from Italy and the Netherlands increased further, accompanied by large numbers of people from Greece and Germany. The number of settlers from Southern Europe remained high throughout the 1960s and, while the proportion from Italy and Greece tapered off after 1970, immigration from Yugoslavia continued at relatively high levels into the early 1970s.

Since then the number of immigrants from Asia (particularly Viet Nam) and Oceania (mainly New Zealand) has increased. By 1991-1995, New Zealand accounted for 9% of settler arrivals, Viet Nam 7%, and Asian countries comprised four of the six top birthplaces of settlers. Throughout the post-war period, the United Kingdom and Ireland has continued to be the largest single source of settlers but their proportion of the total intake has declined over time to 14% in the period 1991-1995.

The current birthplace mix of Australia's overseas-born population and the large differences in the age profiles of individual birthplace groups reflect these successive waves of immigration from different parts of the world.

TOP 6 SOURCE COUNTRIES OF BIRTH OF SETTLERS

1971-75
Country
'000
% total intake

UK and Ireland
227.2
41.4
Yugoslavia(a)
39.2
7.2
Greece
21.2
3.9
USA
20.0
3.7
Italy
18.5
3.4
New Zealand
18.5
3.4
1991-95
Country
'000
% total intake

UK and Ireland
63.2
14.0
New Zealand
41.3
9.1
Hong Kong and Macau
36.3
8.0
Viet Nam
33.7
7.5
Philippines
23.0
5.1
India
20.8
4.6

(a) Former Yugoslav Republics.

Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0); Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0).


Age and socio-economic status
The age composition of new arrivals is considerably younger than that of the total population so that the more recently arrived birthplace groups have a much younger age profile than either the total population or those groups which arrived mainly in earlier migration waves.

While aspects of their cultural heritage may be maintained by subsequent generations (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Second generation Australians), Australian-born children of migrants are not included in population counts of the overseas-born. Consequently, overseas birthplace groups experience more rapid ageing than the Australian-born population.

Of the top 12 overseas birthplace groups in 1996, the Italian born had the oldest age profile (median age 57 years) followed by those from Greece, the Netherlands and Germany, all with median ages of 50 years or older. In contrast New Zealanders and the more recently arrived Asian groups (people from the Philippines, Viet Nam, Malaysia and Hong Kong) were the youngest, with median ages below 35 years.

Differences in the age profiles of birthplace groups help to explain why various measures of socio-economic status, such as labour force participation rates, unemployment rates, educational attainment and dependency on income support, differ between birthplace groups. This is because these measures are themselves often associated with a person's age.

For example labour force participation (LFP) rates increase markedly in the 20-24 years age group, peak in the 25-44 years age range, then decline rapidly after 60 years of age. The social security recipient (SSR) rate also varies with age, increasing rapidly in pre-retirement years (mainly disability support pension) and after retirement (age pension).

The effect of the age profile of birthplace groups on differences in these two indicators of socio-economic status can be seen among the top 12 overseas birthplace groups. In 1996, the countries with the oldest age profiles; Italy, Greece, Netherlands and Germany, had the lowest LFP rates and, apart from Germany, the highest SSR rates. People from New Zealand and the more recently arrived Asian birthplace groups (except Hong Kong) all had LFP rates above the national average and, with the exception of the Vietnamese, lower than average SSR rates.


MEDIAN AGE OF TOP 12 OVERSEAS BIRTHPLACE GROUPS, 1996p

(a) Former Yugoslav Republics.


Source: Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0).

Immigrant populations

Persons born in another country - Australia, Canada, the United States of America and New Zealand define their immigrant population primarily as those born in another country and who have been granted the right to live permanently in the host country. Australian estimates of the immigrant population also include long-term (12 months or more) residents.

Persons of foreign nationality - the balance of OECD countries define their immigrant populations as persons of foreign nationality who are registered as living in the host country. Registration of permanent and most long-term (12 months or more) foreign residents is common to all of these countries. However, the requirement for shorter term residents to register varies between countries. Germany requires all foreigners owning or renting a private dwelling to register regardless of intended length of stay.

IMMIGRANT POPULATIONS(a) IN SELECTED OECD COUNTRIES, 1993

Immigrant populations(a)
%
'000

Luxembourg
31.1
124.5
Australia
22.8
4,033.0
Switzerland
18.1
1,260.3
Canada (1991)
16.1
4,342.9
Germany
8.5
6,878.1
USA (1990)
7.9
19,767.3
Sweden
5.8
507.5
Netherlands
5.1
779.8
UK
3.5
2,001.0
Italy
1.7
987.4
Japan
1.1
1,320.7

(a) See information box for definitions.

Source: OECD, Trends in International Migration, Annual Report 1994.


International comparison
With more than four million people born overseas (representing 23% of the total population) Australia has one of the largest immigrant populations in the world. When compared to other major host countries in the OECD in 1993 only the United States of America, Germany and Canada had bigger migrant populations. However, when measured as a proportion of the total population, Australia had the largest migrant population of all OECD countries except Luxembourg, whose relatively small migrant population of 125,000 represented 31% of the total population.

In recent decades, Canada and the United States of America, like Australia, have experienced increasing numbers of settlers from Asian countries and a decline in the numbers of settlers from European countries.

These trends are reflected in changes in the composition of the overseas-born populations in these countries. For example, in 1981 people born in Asian countries made up 9% of the total overseas-born population in Australia and 14% in Canada. By 1991 Asians accounted for 18% of all overseas-born in Australia and 25% in Canada. In 1990 migrants from Asia made up 25% of the total overseas-born population in the United States of America compared to 18% in 1980.

BIRTHPLACE OF IMMIGRANT POPULATIONS IN AUSTRALIA, CANADA AND THE USA

Australia
Canada
USA



1981
1991
1981
1991
1980
1990
Birthplace region
%
%
%
%
%
%

Europe and former USSR
75.4
60.9
66.7
54.4
36.6
22.0
Asian regions
8.9
18.2
14.1
24.5
18.0
25.2
The Americas(a)
3.1
4.0
15.1
16.2
37.0
46.3
Other(b)
12.6
17.0
4.1
4.9
8.3
6.5
Total ('000)
3,110.9
3,965.3
3,848.3
4,342.9
14,079.9
19,767.3

(a) Consists of Northern America, Southern America, Central America and the Caribbean.
(b) Includes birthplace not stated.

Source: Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0); OECD, Trends in International Migration, Annual report 1994.


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