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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
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Australia's top four overseas birthplace groups

The 2001 Census of Population and Housing counted 4.1 million Australian residents born overseas, or 22% of all Australian residents. Of those born overseas, 43% were born in one of four countries - the United Kingdom (1.0 million persons or 6% of all Australian residents), New Zealand (356,000 or 2%), Italy (219,000 or 1%) and Vietnam (155,000 or 1%).

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) has produced a set of community summaries for birthplace groups in Australia, based on data from DIMIA and from the 2001 census. Much of the historical background provided in this article is drawn from these sources.

United Kingdom-born Australians

Immigration from the United Kingdom began with the establishment of a British penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788. Many free settlers also joined the convicts who were transported to serve their sentences in Australia, particularly during the gold rushes of the 1850s. After the end of World War II, the Australian (Commonwealth) Government entered into agreements with a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, to provide free and assisted immigration to Australia. Between 1947 and 1973, immigrants from the United Kingdom constituted 41% of Australia's total immigration intake of more than 2.5 million. Despite the cessation of assisted immigration agreements, immigrants from the United Kingdom continued to arrive in Australia, many through the Family Stream of Australia's Immigration Program. Results from the 2001 Census of Population and Housing show 37% of Australians have United Kingdom ancestry, above the proportion who reported Australian ancestry (36%).

Graph 5.36: UNITED KINGDOM-BORN AUSTRALIANS, Year of arrival - 2001



For United Kingdom-born Australians present on census night in 2001, the median age on arrival in Australia was 21.9 years. Half of these arrivals had occurred by 1970 (graph 5.36). The most common year of arrival was 1969, with 4% of all United Kingdom-born Australians arriving in that year.

The states with the highest proportions of United Kingdom-born residents were Western Australia (202,000 persons, or 11% of residents), South Australia (124,000 persons, or 9%) and the Australian Capital Territory (17,000 persons, or 6%) (graph 5.37). Most (89%) of United Kingdom-born Australians were counted in urban areas on census night in 2001, close to the figure for all Australian residents (87%).

Graph 5.37: UNITED KINGDOM-BORN RESIDENTS AS A PROPORTION OF STATE POPULATION - 2001



The median age of the United Kingdom-born population in 2001 was 52.0 years, compared with 45.0 years for all overseas-born and 35.7 years for all Australian residents. A high proportion of United Kingdom-born residents were aged 65 years and over (24% compared with 13% for all Australian residents), with a sex ratio of 100.4 males per 100 females. Graph 5.38 shows the age and sex distribution of United Kingdom-born residents in 2001.

5.38 AGE DISTRIBUTION OF UNITED KINGDOM-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001

Graph 5.38: AGE DISTRIBUTION OF UNITED KINGDOM-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001


(a) The 80+ age group includes all ages 80 years and over and therefore is not strictly comparable with five-year age groups in the rest of this graph.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


New Zealand-born Australians

Links between Australia and New Zealand have been strong since European settlement, and between 1828 and 1840 New Zealand was under the jurisdiction of the Governor of New South Wales. Until the 1950s more Australians moved to New Zealand than vice versa. However, during the 1960s there was a shift in this pattern. By the 1971 census the number of New Zealand-born living in Australia was 80,000. By 1981 this number more than doubled to 177,000, more than three times the recorded number of Australians living in New Zealand at the time (53,000). In 2001 the New Zealand-born community was the second largest overseas-born group in Australia with 356,000 persons.

Graph 5.39: NEW ZEALAND-BORN AUSTRALIANS, Year of arrival - 2001



The median age on arrival in Australia for New Zealand-born residents present on census night in 2001 was 22.2 years, with half arriving after 1988 (graph 5.39). The most common year of arrival for New Zealand-born Australians was 2000, with 6% of New Zealand born residents arriving in that year. This indicates that New Zealand was the only one of the four countries selected that did not show a decline in arrivals.

Queensland had the highest proportion of New Zealand-born residents, with 127,000 persons or 4% of Queensland residents (graph 5.40). This was followed by Western Australia with 45,000 persons (3%). New Zealand-born residents comprised 2% of the population in the Northern Territory (4,000 persons) and New South Wales (106,000 persons). Most New Zealand-born residents (91%) were counted in urban areas on census night in 2001.

Graph 5.40: NEW ZEALAND-BORN RESIDENTS AS A PROPORTION OF STATE POPULATION - 2001



The median age of New Zealand-born residents in 2001 was 37.1 years, compared with 45.0 years for all overseas-born and 35.7 years for all Australian residents. The majority of New Zealand-born residents were aged between 15 and 64 years, with 6% aged 65 years and over (compared with 13% for all Australian residents) (graph 5.41). The sex ratio was 102.7 males per 100 females.

5.41 AGE DISTRIBUTION OF NEW ZEALAND-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001

Graph 5.41: AGE DISTRIBUTION OF NEW ZEALAND-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001


(a) The 80+ age group includes all ages 80 years and over and therefore is not strictly comparable with five-year age groups in the rest of this graph.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Italy-born Australians

Early in Australia's settlement Italian migrants joined the gold rush in Australia, with many establishing communities to service the gold fields. Many Italian labourers also came to Queensland's cane fields, and by the late-1930s a third of Italy-born Australians lived in Queensland's cane-growing regions. In 1947 there were 34,000 Italy-born persons in Australia. After World War II the number of Italian migrants increased through Australia's Assisted Migration Program, driven by post-war resettlement and labour shortages, and in 1971 there were 289,000 Italy-born persons. The Italian economy strengthened after 1971 and many migrants returned to Italy. In conjunction with an ageing Italy-born population, this led to a decline in the size of the Italy-born population to 238,000 persons in 1996 and 219,000 persons in 2001.

Graph 5.42: ITALY-BORN AUSTRALIANS, Year of arrival - 2001



The median age on arrival in Australia for Italy-born residents present on census night in 2001 was 20.8 years. Half of Italy-born residents in 2001 had arrived before 1959, with 7% of Italy-born Australians arriving in 1956 (graph 5.42).

A high proportion of Italy-born Australians (94%) were counted in urban areas in the 2001 census. Most Italy-born Australians resided in Victoria (91,000 persons, or 2% of Victorian residents) and South Australia (25,000 persons, also 2%). This was followed by Western Australia with 23,000 persons, or 1% of Western Australia's resident population (graph 5.43).

Graph 5.43: ITALY-BORN RESIDENTS AS A PROPORTION OF STATE POPULATION - 2001



The median age of the Italy-born population in 2001 was 62.0 years, considerably higher than the figure of 35.7 years for all Australian residents. The decreasing number of Italian migrants is reflected in the age distribution of Italy-born Australians (graph 5.44), with increased numbers at the older age groups as post-war migrants aged and 42% aged 65 years and over. The sex ratio in 2001 was 110.6 males per 100 females.

5.44 AGE DISTRIBUTION OF ITALY-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001

Graph 5.44: AGE DISTRIBUTION OF ITALY-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001


(a) The 80+ age group includes all ages 80 years and over and therefore is not strictly comparable with five-year age groups in the rest of this graph.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Vietnam-born Australians

In 1954, Vietam was divided into a communist democratic republic in the north and a non-communist republic in the south. War between the north and south was won by the north in 1975. After Saigon fell to the communists in 1975, large numbers of Vietnamese left their country. In the following decade an estimated two million people left Vietam and were resettled, mostly in Australia, the United States of America, France and Canada.

Prior to 1975 there were approximately 700 Vietnam-born people in Australia. Refugee resettlement occurred between 1975 and 1985, and was followed by family reunion under the Family Stream of Australia's Immigration Program. By 1981, 50,000 Vietnamese had been resettled in Australia. By 1991 there were 122,000 Vietnam-born in Australia and in the 2001 census, 155,000 Vietnam-born Australians were counted.

Graph 5.45: VIETNAM-BORN AUSTRALIANS, Year of arrival - 2001



For Vietnam-born Australians present on census night in 2001 the median age on arrival in Australia was 23.0 years. Nearly all Vietnam-born residents arrived in Australia after 1977 (98%) due to resettlement after the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 (graph 5.45). The most common year of arrival was 1990, with 7% of all Vietnam-born Australians arriving in this year. This is closely followed by 1980, also with 7% of arrivals.

The states with the highest proportions of Vietnam-born residents in 2001 were Victoria (57,000 persons) and New South Wales (63,000 persons), each representing 1% of the state's resident population (graph 5.46). Very few Vietnam-born Australians were counted in rural Australia, with 99% counted in urban areas on census night in 2001.

Graph 5.46: VIETNAM-BORN RESIDENTS AS A PROPORTION OF STATE POPULATION - 2001



The median age of the Vietnam-born population in 2001 was 37.6 years, compared with 45.0 years for all overseas-born and 35.7 years for all Australian residents. The population was largely aged between 15 and 54 years, with 7% aged 65 years and over (graph 5.47). There were fewer male than female Vietnam-born residents, with a sex ratio of 94.0 males per 100 females.

5.47 AGE DISTRIBUTION OF VIETNAM-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001

Graph 5.47: AGE DISTRIBUTION OF VIETNAM-BORN RESIDENTS - 2001


(a) The 80+ age group includes all ages 80 years and over and therefore is not strictly comparable with five-year age groups in the rest of this graph.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Labour force

In 2001, New Zealand-born residents had the highest labour force participation rate of the four selected birthplace groups at 75%; the participation rate for all Australian residents was 63%. This was followed by Vietnam-born residents (with a participation rate of 61%) and United Kingdom-born residents (59%). Italy-born residents had the lowest participation rate (38%), due in part to the high proportion aged 65 years and over.

The unemployment rate for all Australian residents in 2001 was 7%. The unemployment rates for Italy-born and United Kingdom-born Australians were lower, at 5% and 6% respectively. For New Zealand-born residents the unemployment rate was above Australia's rate, at 8%. Vietnam-born residents had the highest unemployment rate of the selected birthplace groups (18%). It is likely that the unemployment rate for this group was compounded by language difficulties, with the 2001 census recording 42% of Vietnam-born residents spoke English 'Not well' or 'Not at all'.

For each of the selected birthplace groups the industry employing the largest proportion of people in 2001 was manufacturing, at 35% for Vietnam-born, 17% for Italy-born and 14% for New Zealand-born and United Kingdom-born. The retail trade industry was a major employer within the selected groups, with 15% of employed Italy-born residents, 14% for Vietnam-born and 13% for New Zealand-born. The property and business services industry employed 13% of both United Kingdom-born and New Zealand-born employed persons. Other significant industries of employment were health and community services (12% of employed United Kingdom-born) and construction (15% of employed Italy-born).

Education

In 2001, 52% of United Kingdom-born residents aged 15 years and over had completed post-school qualifications. New Zealand-born residents followed at 47%, close to that for all Australian residents of 46%. The most common areas of qualification for United Kingdom-born and New Zealand-born residents were engineering and related technologies, management and commerce, and health. The proportion of Vietnam-born residents aged 15 years and over who had completed educational or occupational training was 29%, while the proportion for Italy-born residents was 28%. The main fields of qualification for Vietnam-born were management and commerce, engineering and related technologies, and information technology, while for Italy-born residents, engineering and related technologies, architecture and building, and management and commerce were the most common.

Religion

In the 2001 census, the most common religions reported by United Kingdom-born residents were Anglican (43%) and Catholic (12%). 'No religion' was reported by 18% of United Kingdom-born residents, above the proportion for all Australians (16%). Over a quarter (26%) of New Zealand-born residents reported that they had no religion, more than the top two religions reported (Anglican 19% and Catholic 15%). Italy-born residents had a high response rate for religion, and only 2% reported no religion. Catholic was the main religion reported, with 93% of Italy-born Australians. The most common religions reported among Vietnam-born residents were Buddhist (58%) and Catholic (22%), with 10% reporting no religion.


5.48 CHARACTERISTICS OF SELECTED BIRTHPLACE GROUPS - 2001

Country of birth

Units
United Kingdom
New Zealand
Italy
Vietnam
Total residents

Population
'000
1,036
356
219
155
18,769
Sex ratio
males per 100 females
100.4
102.7
110.6
94.0
97.6
Median age
years
52.0
37.1
62.0
37.6
35.7
Aged 65 and over
%
23.9
6.3
42.0
6.5
12.6
Median year of arrival(a)
year
1970
1988
1959
1987
-
Median age at arrival
years
21.9
22.2
20.8
23.0
-
Labour force participation rate
%
58.6
75.4
37.9
60.6
63.0
Unemployment rate
%
6.0
7.7
4.5
17.7
7.4
Persons aged 15 and over with post-school qualifications
%
51.5
47.0
28.3
29.0
46.2
Bachelor level and above(b)
%
28.0
26.5
11.8
42.8
28.0
Diploma level(b)
%
14.3
14.9
8.6
14.2
13.0
Certificate level(b)
%
38.0
39.8
44.8
18.8
34.2

(a) Year by which half of those counted in the 2001 census had arrived in Australia.
(b) Proportion of persons 15 years and over with post-school qualifications.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics), 2001 Census of Population and Housing.

Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), Community Information Summaries, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/comm-summ/index.htm>, last viewed 29 July 2004.

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