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MIGRANT SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
HOW DO THE CHARACTERISTICS OF EARLIER MIGRANTS DIFFER FROM THOSE WHO ARRIVED MORE RECENTLY?
Where do they come from?
Analysis of data relating to the countries of birth of migrants by year of arrival revealed that those migrants who arrived before 2006 came from North West Europe (29%), Southern and Eastern Europe (17%), South East Asia (13%) and Oceania and Antarctica (10%). Migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 mostly came from Southern and Central Asia (23%), North West Europe (21%), North East Asia (21%) and South East Asia (13%).
It could be surmised that the differences in numbers and proportions represent changes in migration policy as well as the impact of major events, such as conflicts, on a world stage over the years. Despite the prominence of European migration (largely from the United Kingdom) in recent times, there has been a considerable shift towards Asia (China and India). This trend, primarily driven by an increased tertiary student intake, was highlighted in several Perspectives on Migrants articles, namely 'Census 2006 - People born in China and India'(Endnote 3) and 'Characteristics of recent migrants' (Endnote 4).
Age and sex
A greater proportion of migrants who arrived before 2006 were aged 45 years or older whereas migrants who arrived 2006 to 2010 had a larger proportion of people aged 18 years to 44 years of age.
As can be seen in the graph below, the age structures for males and females of the two migrant groups appear to be quite different. Two thirds (67%) of males who arrived in Australia before 2006 were aged 45 or older, whereas 67% of males who arrived between 2006 and 2010 were aged 18 to 34 years of age. For females who arrived in Australia before 2006, 82% were aged 35 years of age or older whereas 75% of females who arrived in Australia between 2006 and 2010 were aged between 18 to 34 years of age. One explanation of the difference in age structures of the two groups is that most newly arrived migrants are partly selected on the basis of their age, health and, for some, their relatively high socioeconomic status (Endnote 5). The earlier arrival group of migrants may also been selected on 'age based' criteria when they first arrived in Australia, however, given the length of time since their arrival, they are now older.
Age and Sex, By Year of Arrival
As would be expected, the number of migrants in the 'Arrived before 2006' group is larger than the 2006 to 2010 group as it constitutes a far longer period of time. This is illustrated in the table below. For this reason, the rest of the article refers to proportions rather than the numbers.
SOCIAL INTERACTIONS: INFORMAL AND FORMAL
The notion of being socially connected or attached is often used to describe the nature and strength of relationships that people have with each other, whether it be through informal interactions (with family and friends) or through formal interactions with individuals and organisations in the wider community (Endnote 6). Interacting with others in mutually enjoyed activities is a way of forming and maintaining relationships, promoting trust, cooperation and tolerance, thus contributing to social connectedness and a sense of belonging. More generally, social attachment refers to the way people bond and interact with others, organisations and institutions (Endnote 6). The interactions that take place with family, friends and the wider community are therefore important in understanding how well migrants are connecting with others in the community.
Informal social interactions
According to the SoNA report, migrants who are considered to be well connected actively participate and interact with family and friends as well as with ethnic and religious groups (Endnote 1). These interactions are often informal. In the GSS informal social activities generally refer to recreational activities undertaken with others which have not been organised by an organisation or group with a formal structure (Endnote 6).
The table below shows that migrants, irrespective of their year of arrival, reported being visited by or visiting their friends as the most common form of social activity participated in during the last three months. Migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 reported going out with or meeting up with groups of friends to participate in outdoor activities more than those who arrived before 2006 (78% compared with 66%). However, when it came to going out with or meeting up with groups of friends to engage in indoor activities, the difference in year of arrival appeared to be not significant.
In today's society, a major form of interaction is through internet social activity. The biggest observable difference between the two arrival groups was the reported participation in internet social activities during the three months prior to interview. Those migrants, who arrived between 2006 and 2010, had a significantly larger proportion of people who reported participation in internet social activities than migrants who had arrived before 2006 (56% and 35%).
Membership or engagement in groups and organisations is a significant aspect of social participation. Formal social activities are referred to as recreational activities undertaken with others which have been organised by an organisation or group with a formal structure (Endnote 6). Social participation includes attendance (including alone) at any of a variety of cultural venues or events provided by governments, businesses and interest groups in order to bring people together. Public meeting spaces for activities, events or ongoing cultural or scientific displays provide important opportunities for people to meet and share in the social life of the wider community (Endnote 6).
The GSS collected information about involvement in formal groups, that is, involvement in social support groups, community groups and civil or government groups. When it came to social and support groups (e.g. sport and recreation, ethnic and multicultural clubs and religious and spiritual groups) migrants who arrived in Australia before 2006 were more likely to be actively involved (61%) than migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 (54%).
Significantly more migrants, irrespective of their year of arrival, reported that they were not actively involved in community support groups (e.g. services clubs, welfare organisations and education and training). Similarly for both groups of migrants the majority were not active in civil or government groups at 84% (arrived before 2006) and 91% (arrived between 2006 and 2010) respectively.
A breakdown of the types of social and support groups that migrants were or were not involved in during the last 12 months can be seen in the table below. The most commonly reported social group that both migrant groups were actively involved in during the last 12 months were Religious or spiritual, ethnic and multicultural groups (29% and 28% respectively). The next highest participation was in sport or physical recreation groups (27% and 26%) and social clubs providing restaurants or bars (14% and 12%). However, these differences, between the arrival groups, were not found to be statistically significant. There was a significant difference between migrants who arrived before 2006 who were actively involved in adult education, other recreation or special interest groups compared with migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 (12% and 7% respectively).
FREQUENCY OF INTERACTIONS AND TYPES
It has been suggested that contact with others is important in providing individuals with identity, social roles and social support mechanisms (Endnote 7). One simple indicator of a person's social integration is whether or not they have had recent contact with family and friends. It might be expected that people who have not had recent contact, particularly if living alone, would have lower levels of social attachment and be more likely to experience loneliness and disadvantage in other aspects of their lives (Endnote 7). The frequency and types of interactions migrants have with their family and friends and the methods of interaction can therefore indicate the strength of the social networks (more frequent activity the greater chance of more social interactions) and their subsequent maintenance (Endnote 6).
The majority of migrants (96% and 98%), regardless of when they arrived in Australia, reported having contact with family and friends everyday or at least once a week.
Frequency of face-to-face contact
Of the two migrant groups, those who arrived before 2006 had a significantly higher proportion of at least once a week face-to-face contact than those who arrived during the 2006 to 2010 period (59% compared with 47%). Migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 reported having more at least once a month face-to-face contacts (25%) than everyday contacts (18%).
NETWORK SIZE AND OTHER FORMS OF CONTACT
Networks link people together with family and friends in wider communities that are often characterised by shared interests, sympathies, values and living circumstances. Research appears to suggest that these social networks are an essential component of an individual's wellbeing (Endnote 7). To establish the size of a person's family network outside the immediate household, information is collected about whether there are any non-household family members that can be confided in and if so, how many. The GSS refers to this group of people as ex-household family members.
As indicated in the table below, the proportion of migrants in both arrival groups having ex-household members they can confide in was significantly higher (86%) than the proportion that did not have such ex-household family members (14%).
Both migrant groups had 1 to 2 family members that they felt could be confided in (43%). Interestingly, both migrant groups had about the same distribution in terms of their proportional breakdowns: 26% of both groups reported having 3 to 4 family members that could be confided in and 17% had 5 or more family members outside of their household that could also be confided in. For migrants who arrived before 2006, the differences between the ranges of family members that could be confided in were found to be statistically significant whereas for migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 there was no evidence to indicate that these differences were significant.
ABILITY TO CONFIDE IN FRIENDS AND HOW MANY
Most migrants reported having friends that they could confide in. However, a significantly higher proportion of migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 reported having friends that they felt close enough to confide in (86%) than those migrants who arrived before 2006 (80%).
The distributional proportion of number of friends was very similar with 38% of both migrant groups reporting that they had 1 to 2 friends that they can confide in. Interestingly, migrants who arrived in Australia before 2006 reported a significantly higher proportion of not having friends that they felt close enough to confide in (20%) than migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 (14%).
Other forms of contact
Interestingly, migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 were more likely to use Internet and mobile telecommunications to keep in contact with family and friends. For example, they were more likely to make phone calls online e.g. VoIP and Skype (54% compared with 31% of migrants who arrived before 2006), use their mobile for calls (91% compared with 74%), SMS (72% and 52%) and the internet such as emails and/or chat rooms (79% compared with 54%). The least utilised form of contact used by migrants to keep in contact with friends and family was mail or fax. However, migrants who arrived before 2006 had a significantly higher proportion of people who reported using fixed line telephones (78% compared with 55%).
Support may be provided directly to others, in the form of gifts or loans, helping with different kinds of activities, or emotional support. Where reciprocity is the norm, people are more likely to be able to ask others for small favours and support during a crisis, in the knowledge that they would be prepared to do the same in return (Endnote 8). This section examines the interactions between people who simultaneously invest in and maintain relationships while also sharing and drawing resources from them such as knowledge and support.
Ability to get support in times of crisis
A significant proportion of migrants, from both groups, reported that they could get support in times of crisis from people living outside of their household. However, the sources of support that migrants would likely seek in times of crisis differed. Migrants who arrived before 2006 reported that their most likely source of support was a family member outside of the household (73% compared with 45%). Those who arrived between 2006 and 2010 were more likely to seek support from a friend (72%) in contrast to only 57% of migrants who arrived before 2006. Migrants who arrived before 2006 were more likely to seek support from a neighbour (25% compared with 10%), and a community charity or religious organisation (11% compared with 6%), than those migrants who arrived 2006 and 2010.
CHARACTERISTICS OF FRIENDS
Friends comprise an important component of an individual’s social network. Without friends, people are generally less connected to social networks (formal or informal) and at greater risk of isolation and social exclusion (Endnote 6). The characteristics of a migrant's friends, that is whether or not their friends are of similar age, level of education or ethnic and cultural background can also provide an indication of whether migrant relationships are either bonding (with similar kinds of people) in nature or bridging (connections with dissimilar people).
As can be seen in the table below, the majority of both migrant groups reported that all or most of their friends were of a similar age. Just over 20% of migrants who arrived during the 2006 to 2010 period reported that about half of their friends were of a similar age while 18% of migrants who arrived before 2006 reported that about half of their friends were of a similar age. This difference was not found to be statistically significant nor was the apparent difference between the two migrant groups who reported having few or no friends.
Over half of migrants, regardless of their year of arrival to Australia, reported that all or most of their friends possessed roughly the same level of education as they did (51% and 57%). Significantly, a greater proportion of migrants who arrived before 2006 reported having few or no friends with the same level of education (21%) than the recently arrived group (13%).
Migrants who arrived between 2006 and 2010 reported having a significantly larger proportion (74%) of friends with the same cultural or ethnic background than migrants who had arrived before 2006 (59%). Also of significance was that those migrants who arrived before 2006 reported having a larger proportion of few or no friends of the same cultural or ethnic background (24%) than migrants who had arrived more recently (11%).
GENERALISED TRUST AND OVERALL LIFE SATISFACTION
Overall life satisfaction is a summary indicator of subjective wellbeing which has been found in numerous studies to have an impact upon family and social relationships (Endnote 6).
Overall life satisfaction
Overall life satisfaction may be influenced by a number of circumstances or determinants such as health, education, employment, income, personality, family and social connections, civil and human rights, levels of trust and altruism and opportunities for democratic participation (Endnote 2). Studies that have looked at overall life satisfaction and subjective wellbeing have consistently found that these determinants all have an impact on social inclusion.
A significantly greater proportion of more recently arrived migrants reported being delighted, pleased or mostly satisfied with their lives than migrants who arrived before 2006 (81% compared with 74%).
Levels of generalised trust
Having trust in others to behave according to accepted social values and norms is a fundamental aspect of a well-functioning community and data which seeks to measure levels of trust in others are recognised as being important to monitoring levels of social cohesion (Endnote 6).
In regard to level of generalised trust, significantly higher proportions of both earlier and the more recent migrant groups reported they strongly or somewhat agree that they can go about their daily lives confidently, expecting that others will generally deal fairly with them and act in ways normally expected in society (52% and 56% respectively).
The premise of this article was to see if analysis of the ABS 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) produced findings that were similar to those resulting from the Settlement Outcomes of Newly Arrived migrants survey (SoNA) conducted for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
While there are differences between the two surveys in terms of their methodologies, samples, data collection methods and topics of discussion, the GSS analysis did find that, regardless of the year of arrival, the majority of migrants reported having high levels of overall life satisfaction. Additionally it also found that the majority of both migrant groups reported being well connected to their family and friends. The GSS was able to provide more specific information about the characteristics of the migrant group's friends than was possible through SoNA. This additional information covered the types of social activities migrants engage in, where they drew support from in times of need, whether or not they had people they could confide in, their methods of communicating and maintaining social networks and the frequency of contact with family and friends.
The two key dimensions of the ASR model found to have a high predictive value in indicating successful settlement outcomes were happiness and connectedness. While the GSS does not ask a happiness question it does ask respondents to rate their overall life satisfaction which provides a summary measure of a person's subjective wellbeing. The overall life satisfaction concept in the GSS does have overlap with the ASR model's concept of happiness in that both measures aim to capture an indication of an individual's wellbeing. The GSS analysis found that most migrants, regardless of when they arrived, reported being satisfied with their lives overall.
In terms of connectedness, the GSS analysis found that most people in both migrant groups (i.e. those who arrived before 2006 and those who arrived between 2006 and 2010) reported having someone (mostly family members or friends) to turn to if needed. What was different between these groups is who they would turn to in time of need. The analysis also found that migrants from both groups were more likely to be actively involved (within the last 12 months) with social and support groups. Of these groups, the most frequently reported answers given were religious or spiritual, ethnic and multicultural groups closely followed by sport or physical recreation groups although the differences between the responses were not found to be statistically significant.
1. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), 2011, Settlement Outcomes of New Arrivals - Report of Findings.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, 2010 General Social Survey: User Guide, cat. no. 4159.0.55.002, ABS, Canberra.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, Perspectives on Migrants 2011, Characteristics of Recent Migrants, cat. no. 3416.0, ABS, Canberra.
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2008, Perspectives on Migrants 2011, Census 2006 People Born in China and India, cat. no. 3416.0, ABS, Canberra.
5. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), 2011, A Significant Contribution: The Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian Entrants, Summary of Findings.
6. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2004, Measuring Social Capital: An Australian Framework and Indicators, Information Paper 2004, cat. no. 1378.0, ABS Canberra
7. Bhugra. D, 2004, Migration, distress and cultural identity, British Medical Bulletin, Vol. 69: 129 - 141, Oxford University Press, London.
8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2006, Aspects of Social Capital, Australia, 2006 (Reissue), cat. no. 4911.0, ABS, Canberra.
For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.
For further information regarding migrant specific data in the ABS 2010 General Social Survey, please follow the link to the Migrant Data Matrices ABS 2010 General Social Survey Data cube.
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