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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/06/2001   
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Contents >> Population >> Population Growth: Coming to Australia

Population Growth: Coming to Australia

In the five years to 1999-2000, skilled migration increased from 20,000 to 32,400 immigrants, while family migration decreased from 46,500 to 19,900.

During the 20th century, immigration has strongly influenced the size and cultural composition of Australia’s population. Until the late 1940s, most migration was from the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the post-war period until the 1960s, growing numbers of migrants arrived from a variety of European countries. Since the 1970s, migrants have come to Australia from all regions of the world, contributing to Australia’s development and growing cultural diversity. While this increased diversity is largely due to changes in government immigration policy, it has also been shaped by events and conditions in Australia and overseas.


Immigrants
The ABS produces statistics on migration based on information collected by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs from passenger cards and visa applications. Where this data source is used, immigrants are defined as people arriving in Australia with permanent migration visas, New Zealand citizens who indicate an intention to stay permanently, and people who are otherwise eligible to stay permanently (e.g. overseas-born children of Australian citizens). Data are available in the ABS publication Migration (cat. no. 3412.0).

Data showing selected demographic and socio-economic characteristics of immigrants are available from the 1999 Characteristics of Migrants Survey, which has been conducted by the ABS every three years since 1984. Where this data source is used, immigrants are defined as people who were born outside Australia, were aged 18 years and over on arrival, and had obtained permanent Australian resident status.


Trends in permanent arrivals
Migration contributes to Australia’s population growth because each year there are more people settling permanently in the country than there are leaving permanently. Since the Second World War, around 5.7 million people have migrated to Australia.1

In 1999-2000, 92,300 immigrants came to Australia. The last two years have witnessed modest increases in the numbers of immigrants, due largely to immigration of New Zealand citizens rising from 19,400 in 1997-98 to 31,600 in 1999-2000.

Over the past 40 years, the number of permanent arrivals has ranged from a high of 185,100 in 1969-70 to a low of 52,700 in 1975-76. Levels have tended to be higher following buoyant economic conditions, and lower following economic downturn.

PERMANENT ARRIVALS

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Australian Immigration: Consolidated Statistics, various nos., various years; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration Update: June Quarter 2000.


Age profile
Immigrants in 1999-2000 tended to be younger than the Australian population they joined on arrival. They were more likely than Australians in general to be in their 20s or 30s, some with young children. This partly reflects the current immigration policy which targets younger immigrants. Further, there is a global pattern for younger people to be more likely to migrate permanently to another country (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Leaving Australia).

AGE DISTRIBUTION OF ALL AUSTRALIANS AND OF 1999-2000 IMMIGRANTS

(a) Preliminary estimate of population, December 1999.

Source: ABS 2000 Overseas Arrivals and Departures; ABS 2000 Estimated Resident Population.


Changing source countries
The closing decades of the 20th century saw decreasing immigration from European countries and increasing immigration from the geographically closer countries of the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years, immigrants have become more than twice as likely to have come from New Zealand than from the United Kingdom and Ireland, which had traditionally been the largest single source of migrants to Australia. In 1999-2000, one in four immigrants came from New Zealand. The other largest sources of immigrants were the United Kingdom and Ireland (11%), China (7%), South Africa (6%) and India (5%).

The cultural mix of people migrating permanently to Australia has diversified over the past five decades. During the 1950s and 1960s, the high proportion of immigrants from Europe reflected the role Australia played in resettling people displaced by WWII. At the end of the 1960s, the growing proportion of immigrants born in the United Kingdom and Ireland was accompanied by substantial migration from Southern Europe (Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy in particular). During the late 1970s and the 1980s, immigrants became increasingly likely to have been born in countries of the Asia-Pacific region, such as New Zealand, Viet Nam and the Philippines.

MAIN SOURCES OF IMMIGRANTS(a)

Countries of origin(a)
1949-50
1959-60
1969-70
1979-80
1989-90
1999-00

%
%
%
%
%
%
New Zealand
1.9
1.3
2.7
16.3
9.2
23.7
United Kingdom and Ireland
28.2
36.1
41.6
21.5
21.1
10.8
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan Province)
0.8
0.4
0.2
1.6
2.5
7.4
South Africa
0.3
0.4
0.5
3.4
2.0
6.2
India
0.7
0.4
2.1
1.0
2.5
5.0
Former Yugoslavia
0.8
6.0
14.2
2.1
1.6
4.6
Philippines
n.a.
n.a.
0.1
2.5
5.0
3.5
Malaysia
0.4
0.2
0.5
2.0
5.3
1.9
Viet Nam
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
16.0
9.2
1.6
Hong Kong (SAR of China)
0.3
0.0
0.2
1.0
6.6
1.6
Germany
34.6
9.0
2.2
1.5
0.9
0.8
Netherlands
1.7
8.9
1.5
1.5
0.4
0.5
Poland
3.0
1.8
0.3
1.7
1.4
0.2
Italy
9.3
15.4
5.6
1.3
0.3
0.2
Austria
3.7
1.9
0.5
0.3
0.2
0.1
Greece
1.1
5.9
5.9
1.1
0.3
0.1
Other
13.3
12.2
21.9
25.4
31.5
31.7
Total(b
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total(c)
184.9
105.9
185.1
80.7
121.2
92.3

(a) Countries of birth of permanent arrivals except for the 1949-50 column which is the country of last residence for at least one year of permanent and long-term arrivals.
(b) Immigrants whose country of origin was not known were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(c) Includes immigrants whose country of origin was not known.

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Australian Immigration: Consolidated Statistics, various nos., various years; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration Update: June Quarter 2000.


A diverse population
The outcome of many years of immigration from a wide range of countries is that Australian society has become culturally diverse. Illustrating this breadth of diversity, the 1996 Census showed that Australians had been born in more than 200 countries.

In 2000, there were an estimated 4.5 million overseas-born residents, constituting almost one-quarter (24%) of the population. More than half of these (53%) had been born in Europe or the former USSR (predominantly in the United Kingdom, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Greece and Germany). Nearly one in four (24%) had been born in Asian regions, with greatest representation from Viet Nam, China, the Philippines and India. Smaller proportions had been born in Oceania and Antarctica (mainly from New Zealand), Africa and the Middle East (largely from South Africa, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey) and the Americas (mostly from the United States of America, Canada and Chile).

COUNTRIES OF BIRTH OF THE OVERSEAS-BORN POPULATION, JUNE 2000p

Source: Australian Demographic Statistics, September Quarter 2000 (cat. no. 3101.0).


Geographic distribution
Immigrants are more highly urbanised than the Australian-born population. In 1999, of Australians aged 15 years and over, 80% of those born overseas and 57% of those born in Australia were living in one of the eight capital cities.

In 1999, 83% of people who migrated to Australia as an adult between 1997 and 1999 were living in one of the capital cities. These recent immigrants were more likely to have been living in a capital city than those who arrived before 1981 (76%), although they were slightly less likely than people who migrated to Australia earlier in the 1990s (86%), and in the 1980s (84%).

In 1999, most immigrants aged 15 years and over lived in either New South Wales (37%) or Victoria (26%) - higher proportions than the Australian born at 33% and 25% respectively. However, recent immigrants were more concentrated than longer established immigrants in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION OF AUSTRALIANS AGED 15 YEARS AND OVER, 1999

Overseas born

Year arrived in Australia

Before 1981
1981-1989(a)
1990-1996(a)
1997-1999(a)
All overseas born
Born in Australia

Area of usual residence
%
%
%
%
%
%
    Capital city
75.5
84.2
85.6
82.6
79.5
56.7
State or Territory of usual residence
    New South Wales
33.7
38.6
44.2
41.7
37.0
32.9
    Victoria
28.2
25.6
23.5
15.5
26.2
24.9
    Queensland
13.0
16.0
15.3
20.6
14.1
19.9
    South Australia
10.1
3.7
3.5
5.3
7.6
8.0
    Western Australia
11.2
13.3
11.1
14.9
11.8
8.9
    Tasmania
1.4
*0.6
*0.5
**0.1
1.0
3.1
    Northern Territory
0.7
*0.7
*0.7
*0.9
0.7
0.7
    Australian Capital Territory
1.7
*1.5
*1.1
*1.1
1.5
1.6
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
Total
2,387.0
574.7
410.9
178.0
4,074.0
10,620.9

(a) Limited to those who were aged 18 years or over on arrival and who had obtained permanent Australian resident status.

Source: ABS 1999 Characteristics of Migrants Survey.


Increasing focus on skills
Most immigrants are New Zealand citizens or people entering under the Migration Program or the Humanitarian Program. The two main eligibility categories in the Migration Program are the Family Stream and the Skill Stream. In recent years, there has been a shift in emphasis within the Migration Program from the Family Stream to the Skill Stream. This change aims ‘to ensure that the positive benefits of migration for the economy are maintained and that there are minimal costs to the wider community.2

There has been a steady rise in the number of skilled immigrants and their family members, from 12,800 in 1993-94 to 32,400 in 1999-2000. Conversely, the number of Family Stream immigrants generally declined throughout the 1990s, with falls in the two years following the 1990-91 recession and again in the late 1990s more than offsetting the increase between 1992-93 and 1995-96.

SELECTED ENTRY STREAMS OF IMMIGRANTS

(a) Data for 1997-98 and subsequent financial years are not strictly comparable with earlier years because of the transformation of the Concessional category of the Family Stream into the Skilled-Australian Linked category of the Skill Stream on 1 July 1997.

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Australian Immigration Consolidated Statistics Number 20 1997–98; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration Update: June Quarter 2000.


In 1999-2000, there were fewer Family Stream immigrants (19,900) than in any year of the previous decade, comprising a considerably lower proportion (33%) of all people who migrated to Australia with a Migration or Humanitarian Program visa during that year.

Through the Humanitarian Program, Australia resettles refugees and fulfils some of its international obligations.3 In recent years, fewer people have been migrating to Australia with visas granted overseas under the Humanitarian Program. The number of these immigrants decreased from 13,800 in 1995-96 to 7,300 in 1999-2000.

People are recorded as immigrants (also referred to as ‘settler arrivals’ or ‘permanent arrivals’) if they have been granted a visa for permanent residency prior to arriving in Australia. However, visas for permanent residence granted under the Migration and Humanitarian programs may also be applied for and obtained once in Australia. In total, 76,000 permanent visas are planned to be granted under the 2000-01 Migration Program, including 40,000 via the Skill Stream (4,700 more than were granted visas during 1999-2000). An additional 15,100 places are available under Australia’s 2000-01 Humanitarian Program.3


CHARACTERISTICS OF ADULT IMMIGRANTS PRIOR TO AND ON ARRIVAL, 1999

Year of arrival in Australia

1981-1989
1990-1996
1997-1999

Selected characteristics%%%

Just before migration to Australia
    Had a job
64.464.368.8
    Had family or friends in Australia
70.574.079.3
On arrival in Australia
    Had post-school qualifications
50.956.861.1
    Aged less than 45 years
87.584.983.2

Source: ABS 1999 Characteristics of Migrants Survey.


Recent immigrant characteristics
Increased emphasis on the Skill Stream of the immigration program has meant more focussed targeting of people with employable skills and good English language comprehension and expression. Immigrants who arrived in Australia between 1997 and 1999 were more likely than earlier arrivals to have had a job just before migrating, and to have had post-school qualifications on arrival in Australia. In 1999, most recent immigrants (80%) spoke English well or very well.

Despite the trend away from Family Stream migration, immigrants have become increasingly likely to have family or friends in Australia prior to migration. In 1999, adults who migrated to Australia between 1997 and 1999 were more likely than earlier immigrants to have had family or friends in Australia just prior to migration (79% compared with 74% of those who arrived earlier in the 90s, and 71% of those who arrived between 1981-1989).

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF RECENT(a) ADULT MIGRANTS, 1999

%

Spoke English well or very well
80.0
Main source of income was an Australian government payment
16.3
Proportion of those aged 18-64 years who were employed
60.6
Unemployment rate
10.3
Proportion of those with an overseas qualification whose qualification was recognised in Australia
49.4

(a) Those who arrived in Australia between January 1997 and November 1999.

Source: ABS 1999 Characteristics of Migrants Survey.


In 1999, approximately one in six recent adult immigrants relied on an Australian government payment for their main source of income, and most of those who were aged 18-64 years were employed (61%). The unemployment rate was relatively high at 10%, and only 49% of those with overseas qualifications had those qualifications recognised in Australia.

This relatively high rate of unemployment among recent adult immigrants is partly due to the difficulties experienced by all new entrants to the Australian labour market. The likelihood of an immigrant being unemployed tends to diminish the longer he or she has been living in Australia, to the extent that a long established immigrant is less likely to be unemployed than someone born in Australia.3



ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Most of the people in Australia without authority enter legally but then stay on after their visa has expired. During 1999-2000, a total of 5,871 people entered Australia illegally.

MAIN AVENUES OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Illegal entrants

Year
People overstaying their visa at end of period no.
Boat no.
Air no.

1989-90
(a)90,000
224
n.a.
1990-91
(a)78,000
158
n.a.
1991-92
(a)81,500
78
529
1992-93
79,800
194
452
1993-94
69,600
194
409
1994-95
51,300
1,071
485
1995-96
45,100
589
663
1996-97
46,200
365
1,350
1997-98
50,950
157
1,550
1998-99
53,143
926
2,106
1999-00
58,748
4,175
1,695

(a) At 30 April.

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Population Flows: Immigration Aspects (December 1999 & 2000 editions), Fact Sheet 81, Protecting the Border: Immigration Compliance (2000 edition), and Compliance data.


Endnotes
1 Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, DIMA Fact Sheet 2 <URL: http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/> 2000 (Accessed 18 December 2000).

2 Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, DIMA Fact Sheet 3 <URL: http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/> 2000 (Accessed 16 October 2000).

3 Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs 2000, Population Flows: Immigration Aspects 2000 edition, DIMA, Canberra.



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