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3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, Mar 2013  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2013   
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MIGRANT FAMILIES IN AUSTRALIA


On this page:
Introduction
The Family Characteristics Survey 2009-10
Composition of migrant families
Migrant children aged 0 to 17 years
Countries of origin of migrant families
Recently arrived and longer standing migrant families
Migrant families in the states and territories
Migrant households
Current and future population and household projections
End Notes


Introduction

Australia is a culturally diverse country. The 2011 Census of Population and Housing reported that of Australia's 21.5 million people, about one quarter were born overseas, with a further 20% of residents having at least one parent born overseas. Over half (53%) of the population are third-plus generation Australians; those having one or more of their grandparents who may have been born overseas or who may have several generations of ancestors born in Australia [Endnote 1]. While the impact of migration on the diversity of Australia's population is well known, much less is known about the impacts brought about by migration on the profile of Australia's families. It is important to have information about family structure, composition and the geographic distribution of migrant families within Australia in order to develop better policies and improve the support services provided to migrant families to achieve good settlement outcomes.

According to the Census of Population and Housing, the number of migrants arriving during the decades 1981-1990 and 1991-2000 were comparable (783,000 and 787,000 persons), while the number of migrants arriving during the most recent decade (2001-2010) was more than double the earlier levels at 1.6 million. This would indicate that immigration levels that used to be fairly stable may continue to fluctuate or reach even higher levels well into the future.

Diversity among Australian families was one of the key issues of the International Year of the Family in 1994. With the 20th Anniversary to be held in 2014, it is timely to refocus on the family in light of the ongoing review of policy development [Endnote 2]. For all families, the family unit can provide individuals with security; financial, emotional and physical. For migrant families, the family unit can also provide context for culture and traditions. The migration process involves the movement of first generation Australians who arrive as couples, singles or groups who may, over time, form relationships and/or family units. Other migrants arrive into Australia as already formed family units. In some cases however, significant members of families are left behind. So, it is important to acknowledge that families are dynamic and change their form and composition over a person's life cycle. As such, couples form, separate, remarry, live in de facto relationships, children are born, grow, mature and leave home [Endnote 3]. For migrant families, immigration policy and the levels of uptake of migrants from particular countries - along with their demographic characteristics on arrival - can influence the magnitude and distribution of family types in the population.

This article examines the family characteristics of migrant families using data from the Family Characteristics Survey 2009-10. Of particular interest is how migrant families compare with non-migrant families. In addition, the discussion compares migrant family types, broadly defined in terms of country of birth and the year of arrival into Australia of the most recently arrived 'key member' of the family which is usually any adult family member born overseas (see Glossary). This article looks at migrant families in terms of their composition, year of arrival, geographic distribution and country of origin. Some person level data on migrant children aged 0 to 17 years and migrant households is also included.


The Family Characteristics Survey 2009-10

The Family Characteristics Survey 2009-10 reported 8.4 million households in Australia in 2009-10, of which 74% (6.2 million households) contained one or more families.

Family households contained 19.2 million people or 88% of the population living in private dwellings (excluding remote parts of Australia).

Lone persons households (23%) and group households (3%) made up the remaining 'non family' households of Australia. A summary of the overall survey results are available in Family Characteristics, Australia, 2009-10 (ABS cat. no. 4442.0) as well as associated data cubes. Data specifically pertaining to migrants is available in the Migrant Data Matrices (ABS cat. no. 3415.0) Family Characteristics 2009-10 migrants datacube.

In the 2009-10 Family Characteristics Survey, families are defined as:
  • two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering; and
  • who are usually resident in the same household.

According to the 2009-10 Family Characteristics Survey, Australia's 6.3 million families were comprised of:
  • 44.4% couples with resident children of any age
  • 40.2% couples without resident children of any age
  • 13.8% lone parents with resident children of any age
  • 1.5% other families of related adults, such as brothers or sisters living together, where no couple or parent-child relationship exists.
The majority (44%) of families in Australia were 'Couple families with children' (2.8 million).

Families with children have particular implications for government and community services providing health, education, children's welfare and housing programs and services. Families change formation over time with resident dependent and non-dependent children of any age within the household typically being supported emotionally and financially by their family structure. [Endnote 4].
Composition of migrant families

In 2009-10, Australia had 6.3 million families of which 40% (2.5 million) were migrant families and 60% (3.8 million) were non-migrant families. To qualify as a 'migrant family' for this article at least one 'key member' of the family was born overseas (see Glossary).

Australia's migrant families are comprised of:
  • 45.7% migrant couples with resident children of any age
  • 43.5% migrant couples without resident children of any age
  • 9.5% migrant lone parents with resident children of any age
  • 1.3% migrant other families of related adults, such as brothers or sisters living together, where no couple or parent-child relationship exists.

MIGRANT FAMILIES (a), By family composition — 2009-10

Migrant families
Non-migrant families
All families(b)
'000
% migrant
families
% all
families
'000
% non-migrant
families
% all
families
'000
% all
families

Couple families without children(c)(d)
1 102.0
43.5^
17.4
1 450.9
38.1^
22.9
2 552.9
40.2
Couple families with children(c)(d)
1 157.1
45.7
18.2
1 658.7
43.5
26.1
2 815.8
44.4
Couple Families
2 259.1
89.2^
35.6
3 109.6
81.6^
49.0
5 368.7
84.6
One parent families(c)
241.7
9.5^
3.8
636.8
16.7^
10.0
878.6
13.8
Other families(e)
33.0
1.3
0.5
64.5
1.7
1.0
97.5
1.5
Total families
2 533.9
100.0
39.9
3 810.9
100.0
60.1
6 344.8
100.0

(a) For further information on how migrant and non-migrant families were defined, see paragraph 3 of the Explanatory Notes of the Source.
(b) Excludes non-private dwellings and households in very remote areas.
(c) These families may also include 'other related individuals'. Please refer to the Glossary.
(d) Includes same-sex couples.
(e) Refers to families where there were no partners or children (e.g. adult siblings living together without a parent).
Note: ^ Indicates family compositions with a significant difference between proportions of migrant and non-migrant families.
Source: Migrants, Family Characteristics Australia, 2009-10 datacube in Migrant Data Matrices (ABS cat. no. 3415.0).


Couple Families

The majority of migrant families were couples with or without children. Significantly, migrant couple families accounted for 89% of all migrant families compared with 82% of non-migrant families who were couples.

Of the 2.3 million migrant couple families, 55% had both partners born overseas and 45% were couples with one partner born overseas and the other partner born in Australia.

Migrants had a significantly higher proportion of couple families without children (43%) compared with non-migrants (38%).

Of the 1.2 million migrant couple families with children, significantly less (63%) had dependent children (aged less than 15 years) compared with 69% of non-migrant couple families. Significantly more migrant couple families had children aged 25 years and over still living at home at 11%, while 7.4% of non-migrant couple families had older children still living at home.

Employment typically provides financial security and other social benefits for families. In 2009-10, significantly fewer migrant couple families with children had at least one parent employed at 88% (non-migrants 94%). Migrant couple families with children with both parents employed were significantly lower at 55% than for non-migrant families in the same group (65%) as were migrant families with mothers employed part-time (27% compared with non-migrants at 38%).

A significant proportion (almost 12%) of migrant couple families with children had neither parent employed. This was almost double the rate of non-migrant couple families with children where neither parent was employed (6%).


MIGRANT AND NON-MIGRANT COUPLE FAMILIES (a) WITH CHILDREN (b), By employment status of parents2009-10
Graph: Migrant and non-migrant couple families(a) with children(b), by employment status of parents — 2009-10




One parent families

There were significantly fewer migrant one parent families (10%) compared with non-migrant one parent families (17%) in Australia. Migrant one parent families accounted for 17% of all migrant families with children, a significantly lower proportion than non-migrant one parent families (28%). The vast majority of one parent families were lone mother families (79% migrants, 83% non-migrants). For those one parent families with a lone mother employed, the proportion of migrant families was significantly lower at 38% than non-migrant families (46%).


Migrant children aged 0 to 17 years

In 2009-10, of the 5 million children aged 0 to 17 years in Australia, 417,700 (8.3%) were born overseas, with around 60% of these arriving between 2005 to 2010. Significantly more overseas born children (82%) lived in intact families (see Glossary), than Australian born children (73%), with most (80%) living with both of their natural parents (compared with 75% Australian born children). Significantly less overseas born children lived in one parent families (10%) compared with Australian born children (18%). There were similar levels of overseas born children and Australian born children living in step and blended families (7% and 9% respectively).
Countries of origin of migrant families

Migration of people from different regions of the world, particularly since World War II, has contributed to the make-up of Australia's multicultural profile. Initially, most migrants to Australia were born in North-West Europe, followed by large numbers from Southern and Eastern Europe. The 2011 Census reported that the proportion of migrants originating from Europe has fallen in the last decade, from 52% in 2001 to 40% in 2011, whilst the proportion of migrants born in Asian countries increased from 24% in 2001 to 33% in 2011. At Census, the top 5 countries of birth for the overseas born population, irrespective of the year of arrival, were the United Kingdom (21%), followed by New Zealand (9.1%), China (6.0%) India (5.6%) and Italy (3.5%) [Endnote 1].

Cultural diversity is often described in terms of whether the countries of origin are classified as main English speaking or otherwise. 'Main English-Speaking Countries' (MESC) consist of the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America. It is important to note that being from a non-main English-speaking country (non-MESC) does not imply a lack of proficiency in English.

MESC families are migrant families with one or more 'key members' (see Glossary) born in a main English-speaking country. Non-MESC families are migrant families with one or more key members born in a country other than a main English-speaking country. Where both key members are born overseas and they are from a combination of MESC and non-MESC countries, the family is represented in both groups. Consequently, the count for the total number of MESC and non-MESC families exceeds the total number of migrant families.

In 2009-10, of the 2.5 million migrant families, just over 1.5 million families had at least one non-MESC key member while 1.1 million families had at least one MESC key member. About 101,300 migrant families had key members from both MESC and non-MESC countries.

Non-MESC migrant families were more common in both New South Wales (39%) and Victoria (29%) than MESC families (25% and 20% for these states respectively). In the other states and territories, MESC migrant families were at significantly higher proportions than non-MESC families, especially Queensland (25% and 14%) and Western Australia (18% and 9%).


MESC AND NON-MESC MIGRANT FAMILIES (a), By state and territory2009-10
Graph: MESC and non-MESC migrant families(a), by State and Territory — 2009-10


Recently arrived and longer standing migrant families

With the family composition changing over time, it is interesting to look at migrant families in terms of their year of arrival.

The composition of migrant families who have arrived since 2005 differs from those who have been settled for much longer in Australia. The Family Characteristics Survey migrants data cube defines recent migrant families as those whose most recently arrived 'key member' arrived from 2005 to 2010. Longer standing migrant families are those whose most recently arrived key member arrived prior to 2005.

In 2009-10, 17% of all migrant families were recent migrants and 83% were longer standing migrants.

Couple Families

The majority of migrant families (2.3 million) were couple families (89%), of which 395,600 were recently arrived and 1.9 million were longer standing arrivals. For the recent migrant couple families, there were 54% without children and 46% with children. Significantly, the reverse was true for longer standing migrant families with 48% couples without children and 52% couples with children.

Of the 1.2 million migrant couples with children, there were significantly more recent migrants with dependent children (40%) compared with longer standing migrants with dependent children (35%).

For newly arrived migrant families, employment is a crucial step in settling and integrating into Australian society [Endnote 5]. In the initial settlement period for all migrant groups, unemployment rates can be relatively high. However, these rates can often fall substantially with increased duration of a migrant's residency [Endnote 6] as migrants gain the necessary skills required to assist successfully transition into the workforce.

A significantly higher proportion of longer standing migrant couple families with children (57%) compared with 49% of recent migrant couple families with children had both parents employed. Of these families with both parents employed, a higher proportion of longer term migrant couple families with children had the mother employed part-time (29%) than recent migrants (21%). Over a third (36%) of recent migrant couple families with children had only the father employed compared with about a quarter of longer term migrant families. Similar proportions of migrant couple families with children had neither parent employed, with recent migrant families at 11% and longer term migrant families at 12%.


RECENT AND LONGER STANDING MIGRANT COUPLE FAMILIES (a) WITH CHILDREN (b), By employment status2009-10
Graph: Recent and longer standing migrant couple families(a) with children(b), by employment status — 2009-10


One parent families

Of the 878,600 one parent families in Australia, only 28% were migrant families. Just over 90% (225,000) of these migrant one parent families arrived prior to 2005. Significantly, almost 11% of all longer standing migrant families were one parent families while only 3.9% of all recently arrived migrant families were one parent families.

Other families

Other families are those where there were no partners or children (e.g. adult siblings living together without a parent). Just over one third of all 'other' families in 2009-10 were migrant families. This cohort was the only one that had a higher proportion of recently arrived (53%) than longer standing (47%) migrant families. Interestingly, the recently arrived other families cohort represented 4.1% (17,600) of all recently arrived families, whilst longer standing 'other' families constituted only 0.7% of all migrant families who arrived prior to 2005.


MIGRANT FAMILIES (a), By composition and year of arrival(b)2009-10
Graph: Migrant families(a), by composition and year of arrival(b)  — 2009-10


Migrant families in the states and territories

Many factors are considered when migrants are selecting their place of settlement in Australia. These include the economic attractiveness of the destination in terms of employment; housing opportunities; the location of other family members, friends or associates who are already residing in Australia; and whether or not there is already an established community where large numbers of people from the same country or ethnic background live [Endnote 7]. Hugo states in his report on 'Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian Entrants' that '...those coming in as family or refugee-humanitarian migrants are often quite constrained in where they can live both economically in terms of what housing markets they can afford to buy into, and also because they need to rely upon the support of friends, family and compatriots to support them in adjusting to life in Australia.' [Endnote 8].

In addition, visa conditions such as those associated with the Regional Initiatives program have a direct impact on the location where a migrant can reside with migrants being required to live outside Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and Melbourne in their first few years of residency. Also, migrants entering Australia on an Australian Sponsored (Family) visa or as secondary applicants on a Skilled visa, often settle with, or in the same locality as, their relatives.

In 2009-10, the state distribution of the migrant families across Australia was similar to non-migrant families, with over two-thirds living in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland (77%). Interestingly, the proportion of migrant families was significantly higher in New South Wales (33%) and Western Australia (13%) than non-migrant families. Migrant families were significantly less common than non-migrant families in Queensland (18%) and Tasmania (1.3%) and the Northern Territory (0.6%).


MIGRANT AND NON-MIGRANT FAMILIES (a), Distribution by State and Territory2009-10
Graph: Migrant and non-migrant families(a), distribution by State and Territory — 2009-10


In Australia, migrant families accounted for 40% of all families. Western Australia was the only state in which there were slightly more migrant families (319,900) than non-migrant families (314,700). The Australian Capital Territory had the next highest proportion of migrant families (43%), followed by both New South Wales and Victoria at 41%. Tasmania had the lowest proportion of migrant families (23%).


MIGRANT AND NON-MIGRANT FAMILIES (a), Proportion within each State and Territory2009-10
Graph: Migrant and non-migrant families(a), proportion within each State and Territory — 2009-10


At 95%, Tasmania had the highest proportion amongst the states of migrant couple families, relative to the other family types, with over half of these (55%) migrant couples without children. The Australian Capital Territory was the next highest with 92% migrant couple families, the majority with children (54%). Western Australia ranked third with 91% migrant couple families, of which 49% were couples with children. Queensland also had significantly more migrant couple families without children at 47%.

MIGRANT FAMILIES (a), By State And Territory Of Usual Residence And Family Composition — 2009-10

Family composition
Couple families with children(b)(c)
Couple families without
children(b)(c)
All
Couple families(b)(c)
One parent families(b)
Total
families(d)
State/territory
%
%
%
%
%

New South Wales
47.0
41.1
88.1
10.5
100.0
Victoria
45.2
44.3
89.5
8.7
100.0
Queensland
41.6
47.2
88.9
9.9
100.0
South Australia
45.0
43.9
89.0
10.2
100.0
Western Australia
48.5
42.3
90.8
8.6
100.0
Tasmania
39.6
55.5
95.1
4.0
100.0
Northern Territory(e)
47.6
40.2
87.8
11.6
100.0
Australian Capital Territory
54.1
38.0
92.2
8.1
100.0
Australia
45.7
43.5
89.2
9.5
100.0

(a) For further information on how migrant and non-migrant families were defined, see paragraph 3 of the Explanatory Notes of the Source.
(b) These families may also include 'other related individuals'. Please refer to the Glossary.
(c) Includes same-sex couples.
(d) Includes 'other' couple families which are not classified as intact, step or blended, for example, grandparent families or families with only foster children present.
(e) Refer to mainly urban areas only.
Source: Migrants, Family Characteristics Australia, 2009-10 datacube in Migrant Data Matrices (ABS cat. No. 3415.0).


Migrant one parent families accounted for only 9.5% of migrant families. However, as a proportion of migrant families within the states and territories the highest proportions were found in the Northern Territory (12%) and New South Wales (11%). Tasmania had the smallest proportion of migrant one parent families with 4.0%.Migrant households

According to the 2009-10 Family Characteristics Survey, migrant persons living in family households numbered 4.7 million people or 22% of the population living in private dwellings (excluding remote parts of Australia) while non-migrant persons living in family households accounted for 14.5 million people (67%). The majority (82%) of the 5.4 million migrants lived in one family households.

Significantly higher proportions of migrants lived in multi-family households (4.5%) and group households (3.8%) than did Australian born persons. These households also contained proportionally more non-MESC migrants than MESC migrants. Although there was a smaller number of recent migrants (1.2 million) compared with longer standing migrants (4.2 million) significantly more lived in group households (9.3% compared to 2.3%).

MIGRANT PERSONS (a), By Family Characteristics — 2009-10

Country of birth
Year of arrival
Born overseas


Born in Australia
All persons
Born in main
English-speaking countries
Born in other than main English-speaking countries
Arrived
2005 to 2010
Arrived
prior to 2005
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

In one family households
82.4^
86.4^
85.4
83.8^
81.6^
80.6
82.9
In multi-family households
4.5^
2.3^
2.9
2.6^
5.6^
6.4
3.9
All family households
86.9
88.7
88.3
86.5
87.1
87.1
86.8
In lone person households
9.3
8.9
9.0
10.8
8.5
3.7^
10.9^
women living alone
5.1
4.7
4.8
5.5
4.8
1.7^
6.0^
men living alone
4.3
4.1
4.2
5.3
3.6
2.0^
4.9^
In group households
3.8^
2.4^
2.7
2.8^
4.4^
9.3^
2.3^
Total persons (number)
5 387.4
16 316.8
21 704.1
2 020.3
3 367.1
1 159.7
4 227.6

(a) For further information on how migrant status was defined, see paragraph 5 of the Explanatory Notes of the Source.
Note: ^ Indicates household types with a significant difference between proportions of person categories.
Source: Migrants, Family Characteristics Australia, 2009-10 datacube in Migrant Data Matrices (ABS cat. No. 3415.0).


Current and future population and household projections

Australia's population growth and household composition are considered important by decision makers and planners when they consider future implications for Australian society.

Australia's population grew by 1.6% during the year ended 30 June 2012. This continues an increasing rate from 1.2% for the year ending 30 June 2011. Population growth has two components: natural increase (the number of births less deaths) and net overseas migration (NOM), the net gain or loss of population through immigration to and emigration from Australia. Despite recent increases in the fertility rate, NOM has been the main driver of Australia's annual population growth and has outstripped natural increase since 2005. As at year ended 30 June 2012, preliminary NOM accounted for 58% of total population growth [Endnote 9] an increase from 53% for the year ending 30 June 2011. The largest contributor to NOM in recent years has been from people on temporary visas, mainly overseas students. For 2009-10, temporary visas accounted for 54% of NOM, with student visas representing 33% of NOM [Endnote 10].

According to Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2031 (ABS cat. no. 3236.0), the number of households in Australia is projected to grow from 7.8 million in 2006 to between 11.4 and 11.8 million in 2031. Underlying these increases is a projected 39% growth in Australia's population, underpinned by migration. [Endnote 11]. While we continue to grow, it remains to be seen as to what impact NOM and planned Migration Program levels (184,998 in 2011-12) [Endnote 12] will have on Australia's future population growth and household composition.

End Notes

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012-13, (cat. no. 2071.0).
2. http://social.un.org/index/Family/InternationalObservances/TwentiethAnniversaryofIYF2014.aspx - viewed 18/10/2012.
3. Hartley R. and McDonald P., 1994, Australian Institute of Family Studies, The Many Faces of Families: Diversity among Australian Families and its Implications, Family Matters no. 37 April 1994, pp6-12.
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2003, 'Living arrangements: Changing families' in Australian Social Trends, (cat. no. 4102.0).
5. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), 2002, Settlement Experiences of New Migrants 2002.
6. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), 2009, Fact Sheet 14 - Migrant Labour Market Outcomes, viewed 9/10/12.
7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2004, 'Where do the Overseas-born population live?' in Australian Social Trends, (cat. no. 4102.0).
8. G. Hugo, 2011, National Centre for Social Applications of Geographical Information Systems, University of Adelaide Final Report to Department of Immigration and Citizenship May 2011, Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian Entrants, 2011, p84.
9. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Jun 2012, Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2012, (cat. no. 3101.0).
NB: Final rebased population estimates using the 2011 Census of Population and Housing will be released in Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) on 20 June 2013, at which point all components (births, deaths, NOM) will be revised and incorporated on a regular basis.
10. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2010-11, Migration Australia, 2010-11 (cat. no. 3412.0).
11. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2006-2031 (cat. no. 3236.0).
12. Department of Immigration (DIAC), Migration program Statistics - viewed 5/3/13 Further ABS Information

Further data is available from the following sources;
Inquiries about these and other related statistics can be made by contacting the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

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