Australian expatriates in OECD countries
In 1999–2003 there were around three Australian-born people aged 15 years and over living in another OECD country for every 100 Australian-born people in that age group living in Australia.
International migration has increased markedly as a result of the rise of the global labour market, more affordable international transport and sophisticated communication technologies. The movement of Australians overseas is an important issue not only because of its impact on the size of the Australian resident population, but also through its impact on the labour force and the economy.
Highly skilled workers are more likely to be mobile than people without relevant skills. In Australia, the loss of skilled workers (the so-called 'brain drain') has been offset by a gain of migrants through the skilled migration program.(EndNote 1) While overall Australia could be considered a net beneficiary of the transnational movement of skilled labour, the loss of Australians to overseas work has been considered a significant issue and the subject of a 2005 Senate inquiry.(EndNote 2) In some Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the retention and repatriation of qualified persons are challenges which governments have started to respond to.(EndNote 3)
This article examines the Australian expatriate population, with a particular focus on those living in the member countries of the OECD.
LONG-TERM AND PERMANENT DEPARTURES FROM AUSTRALIA
The number of long-term and permanent departures of Australian residents has increased considerably over the 20 years to 2005. In the 12 months to December 2005, there were 158,000 departures by Australian residents for an intended period of 12 months or more. This was more than twice the number of Australian residents who departed in 1985 (69,600). In 2005, almost two-thirds (64%) of all departures (or 101,000) were to OECD countries.
The age profile of Australian residents departing for a period of 12 months or more in 2005 differed from that of the overall Australian population. Most noticeable was the peak in the 25–29 years and the 30–34 years age-groups. One-third (34%) of all departures were of people aged in these groups yet people aged 25–34 years made up only 14% of the Australian resident population.
Overall, the numbers of males and females departing was fairly even, with 102 Australian resident males departing for every 100 females in 2005. However, the male-female pattern differed markedly by age group. At the younger adult ages (from 15–34 years) female departures outnumbered those of males with just 87 males for every 100 females (largely accounted for by the higher proportions of females in this age group going to the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand). Among departures of people aged 35 years and over, there were 124 male departures for every 100 female departures.
|Australian departures to overseas destinations|
Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) data are compiled from passenger cards that are collected from people arriving in or departing from Australia. Passenger cards collect information on the stated intentions of travellers, including country of destination/future residence and the length of intended stay.
Permanent departures are departures of Australian residents (including former settlers) who intend to live in another country permanently.
Long-term departures are departures of Australian residents (including former settlers) who intend to stay abroad for a period of 12 months or more (but not permanently).
As movements by passengers are categorised according to intentions, long-term departures in migration data do not account for the significant proportion of people who return to Australia before being away for a period of at least 12 months. For example, in the year to June 2004, half (50%) of all long-term departures from Australia returned to live in Australia within one year of their original departure.
|Source: Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (ABS cat no. 3401.0); Australian Demographic Statistics (ABS cat no. 3101.0).|LONG-TERM AND PERMANENT DEPARTURES OF AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS:
EXPATRIATE AUSTRALIANS LIVING IN OECD COUNTRIES
According to the censuses and surveys of the 29 OECD countries in the period 1999–2003, there were an estimated 346,000 Australian- born people living in other OECD countries. Of these, 84% (290,000) were aged 15 years or over. This was equivalent to almost three Australian-born people aged 15 years and over living in OECD countries for every 100 Australian-born people of the same age group living in Australia (the expatriate ratio). More than two-thirds (70%) of Australia's expatriate population were living in the top three destinations. The United Kingdom had 33% (96,900 people), followed by the United States with 22% (65,200) and New Zealand with 14% (42,000). These were followed by Greece with 7%, and Canada and Italy with 6% each.
The reasons Australians give for migrating overseas are commonly related to employment. According to a 2002 emigration survey(EndNote 1), 43% of expatriates cited 'better employment opportunities', 36% 'professional development' and 32% gave 'higher income' as a reason for emigrating. On the other hand, 'lifestyle' and 'marriage/partnership' were reasons given by 23% and 22% of expatriates respectively, while 15% gave 'education/study' as a reason.
|Expatriates in the OECD|
Expatriates in this article refer to persons living in an OECD country other than their country of birth, regardless of the current or eventual duration of their stay abroad.(EndNote 3)
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has compiled data on the foreign-born populations living within 29 OECD countries. These countries include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The data was sourced from the censuses and national surveys conducted by member countries in the 1999–2003 period. Australian expatriates therefore include Australian-born people who were counted as part of the population in the national censuses or surveys of these countries. Some people may have been counted in the national censuses of more than one OECD in the 1999–2003 period, but it is assumed the number would be very small.
As this article excludes expatriates in a range of other significant destinations for Australian expatriates (e.g. Singapore), it cannot be seen as wholly representative of Australian-born people living abroad. Furthermore, the number of expatriates enumerated in OECD member country censuses and surveys is likely to be an underestimate of the true number of such people. This is because some censuses may seek to exclude persons who were not citizens and/or permanent residents. Also, some expatriates may have avoided being counted if they perceived that the census was not relevant to them.
The expatriate ratio used in this article is the number of expatriates per 100 people living in the country of birth of the expatriate population with the same country of birth as the expatriates. For example, there were 290,000 Australian-born people aged 15 years and over living in other OECD countries and 10.3 million Australian-born people aged 15 years and over living in Australia which gives an expatriate ratio of: 290,000 / 10.3 million x 100 = 2.8 per 100 Australian-born in Australia.
High level education is as defined by the OECD using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) to make education comparisons among countries. The ISCED levels that make up high level education are: ISCED5A: Academic tertiary, ISCED5B: Vocational tertiary, ISCED 6: Advanced research. In Australia, this grouping is equivalent to diploma/advanced diploma and above.
|Source: OECD Database on immigrants and expatriates, <http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,2340,en_2649_201185_34063091_1_1_1_1,00.html >|
AUSTRALIAN EXPATRIATES(a) AGED 15 YEARS AND OVER IN SELECTED OECD COUNTRIES — 1999–2003
EDUCATIONAL STATUS OF EXPATRIATES
Across all OECD countries, 44% of Australian expatriates aged 15 years and over had a high level of educational attainment. Among the top eight OECD countries of destination for Australian expatriates, there was great variability in the proportions of expatriates with a high level of education. Australian expatriates in Japan were on average the most highly educated of Australian expatriates with 84% having a high level of education. In contrast, only 13% of Australian expatriates in Italy had a high level of educational attainment. Just over half (54%) of Australian expatriates in the United Kingdom had a high level of education, while less than one-third (31%) of Australian expatriates in New Zealand did so.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER OECD COUNTRIES
Proportion of total expatriates
Proportion with high level of education qualification (b)(c)
|Country of residence|
|United States of America|
|Balance of OECD|
|Total in OECD|
|(a) Australian-born people counted in censuses/surveys within OECD countries. |
(b) High level includes ISCED5A: Academic tertiary, ISCED5B: Vocational tertiary, ISCED 6: Advanced research.
(c) Around 5% of the Australian expatriate population in the OECD had no information on educational attainment, these have been excluded from the total in calculating the proportion.
Source: OECD database on immigrants and expatriates, last viewed 3 July 2006, <http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,2340,en_2649_201185_34063091_1_1_1_1,00.html>.
EXPATRIATES(a) FROM SELECTED OECD COUNTRIES TO OTHER OECD COUNTRIES — 1999–2003
In comparison with most other OECD countries, Australia's expatriate ratio (2.8 Australian-born people aged 15 years or over per 100 Australian born people aged 15 years and over within Australia) was relatively low. Ireland had the highest ratio with 29 Irish-born people aged 15 years and over in other OECD countries for every 100 in Ireland. New Zealand had the second highest expatriate ratio with 19 per 100, while Portugal had 16 and Luxembourg and Mexico 14 each. The lowest OECD expatriate ratio was the United States of America with less than one person in other OECD countries per 100 USA-born within the USA.
The OECD country with the largest expatriate population aged 15 years and over was Mexico with 8.4 million expatriates (99% of whom were in the USA). The United Kingdom had the second largest diaspora (3.3 million) followed by Germany (3.1 million) and Italy (2.4 million).
Australian expatriates were among the most highly educated among the OECD expatriate populations, with 44% of expatriates in other OECD countries having a high level of education. Japan had the highest proportion with 50%, followed by USA (49%) and New Zealand (45%).
The transnational movement of skilled people can provide net benefits to countries. One way of evaluating the net benefit from international migration of skilled people is to look at the ratio of highly educated migrants in a country (i.e. expatriates from other countries) to the number of highly educated expatriates of that country who have left. However, this comparison does not account for whether the education was acquired in the host country.
Within the OECD countries in the 1999–2003 period, Australia had seven highly educated migrants for every one highly educated Australian who was living elsewhere in the OECD. This ratio was the highest in the OECD and while it reflects Australia's history (and official policy) of attracting skilled migrants, it should also be noted that in 2005 nearly half (47%) of overseas born Australian residents had obtained their qualifications in Australia.
The USA had the second highest ratio with six highly educated immigrants for every highly educated USA-born person living elsewhere. Most OECD countries had a ratio much closer to one, and many were less than one. For example, the United Kingdom and Italy each had 0.4 while New Zealand had 0.6 migrants with a high level of education for every one expatriate with a high level of education.
1 Hugo, G, Rudd, D and Harris, K, 2003, Australia's Diaspora: Its Size, Nature and Policy Implications, Information paper no. 80, Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Melbourne.
2 Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, 2005, They still call Australia home: Inquiry into Australian expatriates, Australian Senate, Canberra.
3 Dumont, J and Lemaitre,G 2005, Counting immigrants and expatriates in OECD countries: a new perspective, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Paper no. 25, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris, viewed 8 May 2006, <www.oecd.org/dataoecd/
Expatriates with a high level of education (c)(d)
Migrant to Expatriate ratio with high education (c)(d)(e)
|Total OECD |
|(a) Aged 15 years and over.|
(b) The expatriate ratio is the number of expatriates per 100 people with the same country of birth living in that country of birth.
(c) High level includes ISCED5A: Academic tertiary, ISCED5B: Vocational tertiary, ISCED 6: Advanced research.
(d) Overall, 3% of OECD expatriates in the OECD had no information on educational attainment. These have been excluded from the total in calculating the proportion.
(e)The migrant to expatriate ratio for people with a high level of education for a particular country is: the ratio of the number of migrants from other OECD countries with a high level of education living in that country, to the number of that country's expatriates with a high level of education.
Source: OECD Database on immigrants and expatriates, last viewed 3 July 2006, <http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,2340,en_2649_201185_34063091_1_1_1_1,00.html>.