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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Population >> Population Growth: Emigration

Population Growth: Emigration

Almost equal numbers of former settlers and other Australian residents left Australia permanently in 1992. More than half of them intended to settle in New Zealand, UK or Ireland.

Emigration is a component of net migration which has not previously had a high profile in public debate. Nevertheless, it is an issue of significance to Australia not only because of its impact on net migration targets, but also because it represents a potential net loss to Australia of skills, education, experience and capital. In particular, the departure of former settlers has been seen as an indicator of the success or otherwise of Australia's immigration program. Recent research suggests, however, that former settlers who emigrate should not be considered as 'failed immigrants'. Rather '...many settlers arrive with the specific intention of returning to their home country and the return can be viewed as a successful outcome of their migration. In addition,...a significant group of the returnees who move back to their origins have made a substantial contribution to Australia through long years of participation in the work force.'1

Permanent departures provide an imperfect measure of the total loss of population. In many cases travellers do not intend to leave permanently but subsequently do so. Conversely, some who declare that they are leaving permanently change their plans and return. This is referred to as category jumping. It has been estimated that in the 1970s and 1980s, reported permanent departures accounted for only about 60% of the actual loss
2. More recently category jumping has accounted for an even greater proportion of total loss.

Over the last 30 years emigration has ranged between 15,000 and 46,000 with an annual average of 26,500 people leaving permanently each year. Permanent arrivals have fluctuated more widely. People leaving Australia permanently comprise former settlers and other residents. Over the last 30 years the number of other residents departing has been fairly steady, averaging about 10,000 each year, although there have been short term variations reflecting changes in economic and political conditions in Australia and overseas. The number of former settlers departing has varied much more and shows an association with the number of permanent arrivals, with the peaks and troughs of immigration being reflected in emigration three to five years later.



PERMANENT ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

PERMANENT DEPARTURES


Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures.
Emigration

Permanent departures of people from Australia are categorised as:
    • former settlers - includes departures of people born overseas who migrated to Australia at some stage previously;
    • other residents - includes departures of Australian born people (including Australian born children of former settlers) and overseas born children of Australian citizens.



Age and sex

In 1992, 14,040 former settlers and 14,090 other residents left Australia permanently. 28% of emigrants were aged 25-34 years and a further 23% were aged under 15 years, suggesting that a large component of emigration is young family groups. These age groups also have higher than average mobility rates in other migratory movement (immigration and internal migration). Along with people aged 35-44 years these age groups were over-represented among emigrants when compared to the age distribution of the total population. The age distribution of former settlers departing permanently is older than that of other residents departing, but it should be noted that other residents include the Australian born children of former settlers.

In recent years there has been discussion concerning former settlers who return to their country of origin on retirement or after a major life change e.g. the death of a partner. Among former settlers, younger people (up to 45 years of age) are more likely to leave Australia than people aged 65 years and over. However, of those aged 65 years and over who departed permanently, former settlers are more likely to emigrate than other residents. In 1992 former settlers aged 65 years and over accounted for 8% of all former settlers departing permanently, more than three times the equivalent proportion of other residents. In comparison, persons aged 65 years and over comprised 14% of the overseas born population and 11% of the total population. It should be noted that these aggregated figures mask considerable variation between birthplace groups.


Overall slightly more females than males left Australia permanently in 1992 (14,300 compared to 13,800). Young women (aged 15-24 years) were more likely to leave than young men regardless of whether they were former settlers or other residents.



PERMANENT DEPARTURES BY AGE, 1992

Former settlers
Other residents


Age group
Males
Females
Total
Males
Females
Total
Total permanent departures
Total Australian population
(years)
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Under 15
16.4
15.6
16.0
30.7
29.3
30.0
23.0
21.8
15-24
10.4
12.7
11.6
12.3
16.2
14.3
12.9
15.8
25-34
26.9
29.5
28.2
26.3
27.3
26.8
27.5
16.2
35-44
20.3
18.1
19.2
16.3
14.7
15.5
17.4
15.1
45-54
11.4
9.0
10.2
8.2
6.9
7.6
8.9
11.3
55-64
7.1
6.8
6.9
3.5
2.9
3.2
5.0
8.4
65 and over
7.5
8.4
8.0
2.7
2.6
2.6
5.3
11.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0


Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures.


Skills

The occupations and skills of people leaving Australia have significance because they can change the overall characteristics of net migration if they differ markedly from the occupations and skills of those migrating to Australia.

In 1992, 53% of permanent departures (51% of former settlers and 54% of other residents) did not state their occupation or had no occupation, compared to 57% of all permanent arrivals. Of those emigrants who did state an occupation, the difference between former settlers and other residents was quite marked. In particular, former settlers were less likely than other emigrants to have been managers and administrators, professionals or para-professionals, and were almost twice as likely to have been tradespersons.


Of all emigrants with stated occupations, 25% were in the professional category but this was more than offset by professional immigration. Similarly, the proportion of emigrants who were tradespersons was smaller than the equivalent proportion of immigrants. In recent years the growth of international business has encouraged the development of an internationally mobile skilled labour force. Australia is one of many countries affected by the long-term movement of skilled labour. In 1992 almost two-thirds of emigrants (and three-quarters of immigrants) were managers and administrators, professionals, para-professionals or tradespersons, compared to less than half of the total population.



OCCUPATIONS, 1992

Former settlers
Other residents
Total departures
Total arrivals
All Australians
Occupations
%
%
%
%
%

Managers and administrators
12.2
14.1
13.1
11.6
11.3
Professionals
19.6
30.8
25.1
35.4
13.9
Para-professionals
8.0
10.7
9.3
8.2
6.1
Tradespersons
21.4
11.9
16.8
18.2
15.0
Clerks
14.1
13.2
13.6
10.4
16.7
Salespersons & personal service workers
10.0
9.9
10.0
7.3
15.3
Plant & machine operators, & drivers
4.9
3.1
4.0
3.5
7.1
Labourers & related workers
9.6
6.3
8.0
5.3
14.7
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0


Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Labour Force Survey.


Destination

In 1992, the top five destination countries for emigrants were the same whether they were former settlers or other residents. This suggests that permanent movement is related as much to social and economic factors (e.g. job-related) or to a 'search for a better life', as to a return by former settlers to their countries of origin. However, the top countries in particular (New Zealand and UK & Ireland) are countries with which Australia has historical, cultural and economic links. They have been important to Australia both as sources of settlers as well as destinations for emigrants.

In 1972 over half of all former settlers departing went to UK & Ireland but this destination was less popular with other Australian residents departing in that year. This suggests that many former settlers were returning to their country of origin.


Migration between Australia and New Zealand has always been unrestricted. New Zealand has consistently been the most common destination for other residents but increased its share of former settlers departing from 13% in 1972 to 35% in 1982 and 32% in 1992. This reflects increased immigration from New Zealand from the mid-1970s (see
Birthplaces of Australia's settlers) and the subsequent return of former settlers.

Other significant destination countries in 1992 were USA and Hong Kong. USA accounted for 11% of other residents departing and 5% of former settlers while Hong Kong was the destination of 5% of other Australian residents and 3% of former settlers. The economic opportunities offered by these two countries may well explain these departures. There has been a recent increase in the proportion of settlers born in Hong Kong (see
Birthplaces of Australia's settlers) which could also be expected to have some impact on emigration destinations in the future. Overall settler loss of the Asian born has been low. However '...many business migrants from Asia still operate businesses in their home countries and accordingly spend substantial periods of time there. This represents a new form of settler loss and may have benefits for Australia.'1


PERMANENT DEPARTURES TO TOP 6 DESTINATION COUNTRIES IN 1992

Former settlers
Other residents


1972
1982
1992
1972
1982
1992
Destination countries
%
%
%
Destination countries
%
%
%

New Zealand
13.2
35.4
32.3
New Zealand
27.7
47.2
30.5
UK & Ireland
51.7
34.6
26.8
UK & Ireland
21.9
13.0
17.8
USA
5.8
4.1
5.2
USA
7.8
11.3
11.4
Hong Kong
0.3
0.4
2.9
Hong Kong
1.2
1.0
4.7
Canada
2.7
2.3
2.3
Canada
4.4
3.8
2.9
Italy
2.6
2.3
1.6
Singapore
n.a.
0.7
2.6
Sub-total
76.3
79.1
71.2
Sub-total
n.a.
77.1
70.0
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
Total departures
33,172
13,352
14,040
Total departures
12,709
9,141
14,090


Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures.


Period of residence

In 1992, 70% of all former settlers departing had lived in Australia for less than five years. 50% of former settlers from Hong Kong had lived in Australia for less than three years. Former settlers born in Hong Kong, USA or China had high rates of departure within a year of arrival as did former settlers born in UK & Ireland or Germany. These latter two groups, however, also had relatively high proportions of emigrants who had lived in Australia for 20 years or more.

More than half of Italian and Greek born emigrants and more than one-third of Spanish born emigrants had stayed in Australia for 20 years or more.



FORMER SETTLERS DEPARTING BY PERIOD OF RESIDENCE, 1992

Period of residence

Under 1 year
1-3 years
3-5 years
5-10 years
10-20 years
20 or more years
Total(a)
Top 10 countries of birth
%
%
%
%
%
%
no.

New Zealand
9.9
19.7
26.0
22.9
15.5
2.7
4,228
UK & Ireland
15.1
19.6
14.7
12.9
17.7
19.4
4,132
USA
21.2
22.3
17.1
18.1
11.4
8.8
386
Italy
8.5
12.6
5.3
7.3
15.0
51.4
247
China
20.0
26.0
25.1
12.8
10.2
6.0
235
Greece
5.5
6.0
8.3
14.2
15.6
50.5
218
Hong Kong
23.9
26.3
32.1
8.1
8.1
1.0
209
Canada
9.8
28.8
13.7
28.3
13.2
6.3
205
Germany
15.3
15.3
11.8
19.2
18.7
19.2
203
Spain
3.1
6.7
1.6
12.4
42.0
34.2
193
All former settlers
12.2
19.3
18.7
17.5
17.5
13.5
14,044


(a) Includes period of residence not stated.

Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures
.


Return migration

In financial year 1992-93, former settlers born in New Zealand and UK & Ireland were by far the largest birthplace groups leaving Australia. 93% of the New Zealand born and 79% of the UK & Ireland born were returning to their countries of birth. A further 11% of the UK & Ireland born were emigrating to New Zealand.

80% or more of former settlers born in Greece, Hong Kong, USA or Italy were returning to their countries of birth. Of Chinese born former settlers, 24% were returning to China and 49% were emigrating to Hong Kong
3.

Onward migration refers to the departure of former settlers to countries other than their country of birth. When period of residence is examined in conjunction with return and onward migration, it would appear that many Greek and Italian born former settlers are returning to their birthplaces on retirement. Similarly, it is likely that the return migration of UK & Ireland born former settlers is occurring mainly among those who have lived in Australia for a considerable period of time. The onward migration of settlers born in UK & Ireland and that of the Chinese born is more likely to occur among those with short periods of residence.



PROPORTION OF DEPARTING FORMER SETTLERS RETURNING TO THEIR COUNTRY OF BIRTH (SELECTED COUNTRIES), 1992-93

Source: Bureau of Immigration and Population Research.


Endnotes

1 Hugo, G. (1994) The economic implications of emigration from Australia Bureau of Immigration and Population Research.

2 Charles Price quoted in National Population Council (1990)
Emigration National Population Report No.9.

3 Bureau of Immigration and Population Research (1994)
Emigration 1992-93.


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