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3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/08/2008   
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CENSUS 2006 - PEOPLE BORN IN THE MIDDLE EAST

On this page:
Introduction
How many Middle Eastern-born people are resident in Australia?
Where do they live?
When did they arrive and what type of visa was used?
What is the age – sex profile of Middle Eastern-born residents?
What is their labour force status?
What is their level of English proficiency?
What is their religious affiliation?
How many people report Middle Eastern ancestries?
List of references


INTRODUCTION

This article continues the theme in this Perspectives series of looking at the population characteristics of people born in different parts of the globe who are now living in Australia. People who were born in the Middle East comprise a relatively small, diverse subgroup of the Australian population. The characteristics of people born in the six primary source countries of birth – Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Israel and Syria – form the focus of the article, which briefly considers:

  • how many Middle Eastern-born people are resident in Australia and where do they live?
  • when did they arrive and what type of visa was used?
  • what is their age, sex, labour force status, level of English proficiency and religious affiliation?
  • how many people, including those born in Australia, report Middle Eastern ancestries?


HOW MANY MIDDLE EASTERN-BORN PEOPLE ARE RESIDENT IN AUSTRALIA?

Census data show there were 193,633 people born in the Middle East who were resident in Australia in 2006. This accounted for 4.4% of the overseas-born population. Almost 40% of those from the Middle East were born in Lebanon, 16.8% were born in Iraq, 15.7% in Turkey, 11.6% in Iran, 4.0% in Israel and 3.6% in Syria. Middle Eastern-born people came from 9 other countries, each contributing less than 4,000 persons (2.0% of the total).

An explanation of the conceptual basis for the country groupings is included in the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Second Edition, 2008 (cat. no. 1269.0).

COUNTRY OF BIRTH, Middle East, Resident in Australia, 2006

Country of birth
no.
%

Lebanon
74 850
38.7
Iraq
32 521
16.8
Turkey
30 491
15.7
Iran
22 550
11.6
Israel
7 789
4.0
Syria
6 969
3.6
Jordan
3 719
1.9
Saudi Arabia
3 482
1.8
United Arab Emirates
2 975
1.5
Kuwait
2 877
1.5
Gaza Strip and West Bank*
2 636
1.4
Bahrain
962
0.5
Oman
827
0.4
Yemen
450
0.2
Qatar
427
0.2
Middle East (not further defined)
108
0.1
Middle East (total)
193 633
100.0

Source: ABS 2006 Census data
* Includes Palestine


WHERE DO THEY LIVE?

In Australia, most of the Middle Eastern-born population live in Sydney (58.1%) or Melbourne (26.0%). Less than 5% reside in each of the other mainland state capitals, with less than 1% in each territory and Tasmania. Place of residence information for persons born in the six main countries of birth is presented below.

At the time of the Census almost three-quarters (72.8%) of those born in Lebanon resided in Sydney, with 19.6% in Melbourne. Similarly, people born in Iraq were mostly living in Sydney (62.2%) or Melbourne (24.5%).

USUAL RESIDENCE, Persons born in Lebanon and Iraq, 2006
Graph: Usual Residence, Persons born in Lebanon and Iraq, 2006


Together, Victoria and New South Wales accounted for 90.8% of people born in Turkey with 46.4% in Melbourne, 37.1% in Sydney, 3.7% in the rest of Victoria and 3.6% in the rest of New South Wales. In contrast, people born in Iran had a more diverse residential distribution, with 50.6% living in Sydney, 18.3% in Melbourne, 9.4% in Perth, 7.6% in Adelaide and 5.4% in Brisbane.

People born in Israel were mostly living in Melbourne (40.8%) followed by Sydney (36.3%) while most of the Syria-born residents were in Sydney (62.1%) followed by Melbourne (26.0%).

USUAL RESIDENCE, Persons born in Turkey, Iran, Israel and Syria, 2006
Graph: Usual Residence, Persons born in Turkey, Iran, Israel and Syria, 2006


WHEN DID THEY ARRIVE AND WHAT TYPE OF VISA WAS USED?

The following graph presents 2006 Census data showing year of arrival for the six largest Middle Eastern-born population groups for the 30 years to 2005.

YEAR OF ARRIVAL, Selected countries of birth, 1975 to 2005
Graph: Year of Arrival, Selected countries of birth, 1975 to 2005


Arrivals of people born in Lebanon peaked at 4,906 in 1977, with a smaller peak of 2,600 in 1987. Since 1992 arrivals have been relatively stable, fluctuating between 883 and 1,368 persons each year. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship's (DIAC's) Community Information Summary for Lebanon advises that the Australian Government eased entry restrictions to allow Lebanese already in Australia to sponsor family members following the outbreak of civil war in late 1975 which resulted in a wave of Lebanese migration to Australia.

Census data show that arrivals of people born in Iraq have increased markedly since 1991. DIAC's Community Information Summary for Iraq attributes this to the Gulf Wars and the quelling of uprisings of the Shi'a and the Kurds in Iraq. Since 1991 arrivals have ranged from 825 to 2,594 persons per year.

DIAC's Community Information Summary for Turkey states: "Immigration from Turkey to Australia declined in the first half of the 1980s and resumed growth in the second half due to high inflation and unemployment in Turkey." This can be seen in the pattern of arrivals, with a low of 312 persons being recorded in 1982 and a peak of 903 in 1988.

Arrivals of people born in Iran were relatively low during the 1970s, before a series of peaks (i.e. 861 persons in 1984, 1,022 in 1988, 960 in 1995, 989 in 2000). Since 2003 arrivals have exceeded 1,000 persons per year. DIAC's Community Information Summary for Iran notes that: "In 1981, Australia began a special humanitarian assistance program for Baha'is seeking to escape religious persecution in Iran. During the 1980s there was a major war between Iran and Iraq. This resulted in an increase in migration to Australia. During the late 1980s and 1990s many professionals started to leave Iran for Australia due to economic and political hardship. In the latter half of the 1990s, while political and religious persecution remained important reasons for migration, many Iranians also came under the Skill and Family streams of the Migration Programme."

Between 1975 and 2005, the level of arrivals of people born in Israel (66 to 388 persons) and Syria (66 to 336) were reasonably stable.

The graph below shows statistical information from DIAC's Settlement Database. During the 10 years to 30 June 2007, Family stream arrivals comprised 85.6% of Lebanon-born arrivals (11,409), 74.6% of Syria-born arrivals (1,659) and 71.5% of Turkey-born arrivals (4,690). The Humanitarian program accounted for 81.4% of settler arrivals of those born in Iraq (19,126) and 54.9% of people born in Iran (5,259). Arrivals through the Skill stream included 57.9% of those born in Israel (1,768) and 24.7% of people born in Iran (2,365).

MIGRATION STREAM, Selected countries of birth, 30 Jun 1997 to 30 Jun 2007
Graph: Migration Stream, Selected countries of birth, 30 Jun 1997 to 30 Jun 2007


WHAT IS THE AGE – SEX PROFILE OF MIDDLE EASTERN-BORN RESIDENTS?

In 2006, the median ages of Australian residents born in the six main Middle Eastern countries were 45 years for those born in Lebanon, 43 years for Syria, 42 years for Turkey, 40 years for both Iran and Israel, and 35 years for Iraq. The graph below shows that the median ages of females were one or two years younger than that of their male counterparts, apart from those born in Iran.

The lower age profile of people born in Iraq is most likely due to their more recent pattern of arrival. Conversely, the relatively older age profile of those born in Lebanon may be explained by the arrival peaks in 1977 and 1987. More recently, people born in Lebanon, Turkey and Syria have predominantly arrived through the Family stream and this may partly account for the older age profiles of these groups (e.g. the Family stream allows for the arrival of 'aged dependent relatives' whereas arrivals through the Skill stream must meet age requirements).

MEDIAN AGE, Males and females, Selected countries of birth, 2006
Graph: Median Age, Males and females, Selected countries of birth, 2006


WHAT IS THEIR LABOUR FORCE STATUS?

The 2006 Census asked persons aged 15 years and over about their labour force status, for example: if they had a full-time or part-time job, or if they actively looked for work. Data show that participation in the Australian labour force differs for the six selected population groups. For example, the participation rate for Australian-born people was 66.0% in August 2006 compared with 69.2% for people born in Israel, 59.2% for those born in Iran and 39.7% for people born in Iraq. These differences may be due to the higher proportions of settlers from Israel and Iran arriving under the Skill stream. Migrants in this stream must satisfy a points test, have particular work skills, meet English language requirements, have other links to Australia or be nominated by particular employers, have successful business skills and/or significant capital to establish a business of benefit to Australia. In contrast, most settlers from Iraq have arrived more recently through the Humanitarian program.

There were also substantial differences between the male and female participation rates for each group. The participation rate of females born in Lebanon and Syria was around 34 percentage points lower than their male counterparts. This compares with a 12.8 percentage point difference for those born in Australia. Around 70% of females born in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria were not in the labour force (i.e. neither employed or unemployed).

Full-time employment rates for males and females born in Israel were similar to those recorded by Australian-born residents.

LABOUR FORCE STATUS, Selected countries of birth, 2006

Lebanon
Iraq
Turkey
Iran
Israel
Syria
Australia
%
%
%
%
%
%

Participation rate (i.e. the proportion of the population group who are either employed or unemployed)
Male
60.5
53.6
61.0
67.5
76.3
62.4
72.6
Female
26.7
24.4
34.3
50.1
60.5
28.0
59.8
Total
44.2
39.7
48.0
59.2
69.2
44.7
66.0
Proportion of the population group who are not in the labour force (i.e. neither employed or unemployed)
Male
36.8
43.9
36.6
30.8
22.3
35.4
25.9
Female
70.1
73.2
63.0
47.9
37.2
69.1
38.5
Total
52.9
57.8
49.4
38.9
29.0
52.7
32.4
Proportion of the population group in full-time employment
Male
35.3
26.1
40.0
43.4
55.0
38.1
53.0
Female
10.9
9.5
15.8
22.5
25.4
11.3
27.4
Total
23.5
18.2
28.2
33.4
41.7
24.2
39.8
Unemployment rate
Male
11.8
21.4
9.8
11.4
5.2
10.9
5.0
Female
12.7
24.4
13.3
12.0
6.5
14.2
4.8
Total
12.1
22.3
11.0
11.7
5.8
12.0
4.9

Source: ABS 2006 Census data
Note: the sum of the participation rate and the proportion not in the labour force does not total 100% due to 'not stated' responses


WHAT IS THEIR LEVEL OF ENGLISH PROFICIENCY?

The 2006 Census asked respondents to rate their level of proficiency in spoken English. Those who replied that they spoke English 'very well' or 'well' were classified as being 'proficient in spoken English', while 'not proficient in spoken English' was applied to the 'not well' or 'not at all' responses. Males and females born in Israel recorded the highest rates of English proficiency (94.4% and 93.3% respectively) while the lowest rates were recorded by people born in Turkey (71.4% and 62.2%).

Further information is available in the article 'Migrants and English Proficiency' in the ABS Perspectives on Migrants, 2007 series (cat. no. 3416.0).

PROFICIENCY IN SPOKEN ENGLISH, Males and females, Selected countries of birth, 2006
Graph: Proficiency in Spoken English, Males and females, Selected countries of birth, 2006


WHAT IS THEIR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION?

When asked 'What is your religion?' in the 2006 Census, the majority of Lebanon-born people in Australia reported Christianity (53.3%) while 40.5% cited their religion as Islam. Similarly, most people born in Iraq (60.6%) and Syria (56.2%) recorded Christianity as their religion. In contrast, most people born in Turkey (75.8%) cited Islam as their religion while the majority of those born in Israel (62.6%) recorded Judaism.

Almost one-third (32.4%) of people born in Iran reported Islam, whereas 27.1% recorded 'Other religions' and around one-fifth (20.8%) cited Christianity. The greater religious diversity among people born in Iran may be due to the special humanitarian assistance program which provided refuge from political and religious persecution for certain groups (see 'When did they arrive and what type of visa was used?').

Further information is available in the article 'Birthplace and Religion' in the ABS Perspectives on Migrants, 2007 series (cat. no. 3416.0).

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS, Selected countries of birth, 2006
Graph: Religious Affiliations, Selected countries of birth, 2006


HOW MANY PEOPLE REPORT MIDDLE EASTERN ANCESTRIES?

While 'Country of birth', 'Language spoken at home' and 'Religious affiliation' may individually provide some insight into ethnicity and cultural diversity, caution should be exercised when using these indicators in isolation (see the article 'Birthplace and Religion' in the ABS Perspectives on Migrants, 2007 series). For instance, country of birth data alone cannot identify the ethnic background of first and second generation Australians.

Ancestry data also reveal information about the distinct cultural and ethnic groups within Australia. The 2006 Census asked respondents to provide up to two ancestries, which were not ranked in importance. (Due to the multi-response approach, the number of ancestry total responses does not equal the number of persons who responded.)

The table below shows the diversity and extent of Middle Eastern ancestries. Respondents nominated ancestries with particular language and/or religious characteristics, which may be spread across countries (e.g. Kurdish, Assyrian/Chaldean, Coptic, Jewish). Many Australian-born people and those whose parents were born in Australia identify with specific Middle Eastern countries (e.g. 'Lebanese').

Further information on ancestry, ethnicity and cultural diversity is available in 2006 Census of Population and Housing - Fact Sheets: Ancestry, 2006 (cat. no. 2914.0) and the Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2005-06 (cat. no. 1249.0).

MIDDLE EASTERN ANCESTRIES, All persons (including Australian-born), 2006

Both parents
born overseas
Father only
born overseas
Mother only
born overseas
Both parents
born in Australia
Country of birth
not stated by
either or both
Total responses (a)

Arab*
17 778
1 006
431
562
996
20 773
Assyrian/Chaldean
22 949
404
243
148
763
24 507
Coptic
1 769
56
11
15
42
1 893
Iranian
22 039
591
277
110
553
23 570
Iraqi
15 726
290
109
68
564
16 757
Jewish
11 066
951
654
2 556
400
15 627
Jordanian
2 980
212
60
46
93
3 391
Kurdish
5 126
108
26
39
167
5 466
Kuwaiti
341
10
0
4
6
361
Lebanese
134 319
17 671
6 671
16 201
6 876
181 738
Palestinian
6 546
587
153
211
173
7 670
Saudi Arabian
733
7
0
0
13
753
Syrian
8 582
709
226
349
291
10 157
Turkish
50 516
3 817
1 618
1 432
2 007
59 390
Yemeni
279
14
6
4
7
310

Source: ABS 2006 Census data
(a) This table is a multi-response table, and therefore the total responses count will not necessarily equal the total persons count
* Includes Bedouin, Omani and not further defined


LIST OF REFERENCES

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2008, Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Second Edition, 2008, cat. no. 1269.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2007, 2006 Census of Population and Housing, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2007, Perspectives on Migrants, 2007, cat. no. 3416.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2006, 2006 Census of Population and Housing - Fact Sheets: Ancestry, 2006, cat. no. 2914.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2005, Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2005-06, cat. no. 1249.0, ABS, Canberra.

DIAC, Settlement Database, viewed 17 July 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/delivering-assistance/settlement-reporting-facility/index.htm>.

DIAC, Community Information Summaries, viewed 17 July 2008, <http://www.diac.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/comm-summ/index.htm>.

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