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3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/02/2008  First Issue
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INTRODUCTION
AUSTRALIA'S RELIGIOUS PROFILE
RELIGION AND COUNTRY OF BIRTH
VIET NAM
INDIA
MALAYSIA
LEBANON
LIST OF REFERENCES


INTRODUCTION

Australia is a culturally diverse nation with more than one in five people born overseas, almost 400 different languages spoken at home and more than 250 different ancestries reported in the 2006 Census. There is wide community interest in our cultural and ethnic diversity, and the characteristics of particular migrant community groups. Country of birth is often collected in surveys and is sometimes used as an indicator of the characteristics of migrant groups based on the distribution of those characteristics in their country of origin. Yet is 'country of birth' a good proxy for other characteristics of migrants, such as religion? For example, does it mean that migrants from particular countries are affiliated with the religion/s generally associated with those countries? This article examines the relationship between birthplace and religion.



AUSTRALIA'S RELIGIOUS PROFILE

Based on the number of adherents, the major world religions are generally accepted as: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Tribal, Animism and Judaism (ABS 2005).

Australia's religious profile is predominantly Christian. When asked 'What is your religion?' in the 2006 Census 12.7 million people recorded 'Christian' or provided a Christian denomination. There is also a significant secular component, with 3.7 million people reporting 'No religion'. Answering this Census question was optional and 2.4 million did not state their religion (or inadequately described it). Smaller numbers of people indicated Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as their religion.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS

'000
%

Christianity
Anglican
3 718.2
18.7
Baptist
316.7
1.6
Catholic
5 126.9
25.8
Churches of Christ
54.8
0.3
Jehovah's Witness
80.9
0.4
Lutheran
251.1
1.3
Orthodox
576.9
2.9
Pentecostal
219.7
1.1
Presbyterian and Reformed
596.7
3.0
Salvation Army
64.2
0.3
Uniting Church
1 135.4
5.7
Other Christian
544.3
2.7
Total
12 685.8
63.9
No religion
3 706.6
18.7
Not stated/Inadequately described
2 357.8
11.9
Buddhism
418.8
2.1
Islam
340.4
1.7
Hinduism
148.1
0.8
Other religions
109.0
0.6
Judaism
88.8
0.5
Total
19 855.3
100.0

Source: ABS 2006 Census data


RELIGION AND COUNTRY OF BIRTH

One in five people who recorded Christianity as their religion were born overseas. Similarly 20% of those who stated 'No religion' on their Census form were born overseas while 11% of people who chose not to provide their religion (or inadequately described it) were born overseas.

Apart from Judaism, the majority of people who reported non-Christian religions were born overseas: including 82% (121,300) of those recording Hinduism, 69% (288,100) recording Buddhism and 58% (198,400) recording Islam.

NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS, Australian and overseas born residents
Graph: Non-Christian Religions, Australian and overseas born residents


Although the proportion of people who were born overseas has remained unchanged at 22% since 1996, Australia's 'country of birth' profile has changed over this time. England and New Zealand remain the two largest overseas-born groups but the size of the European-born population has decreased. China is now the third largest birthplace group having increased by 96,000 since 1996, while the number of people born in India has increased by 70,000.

TOP 15 COUNTRIES OF BIRTH IN 2006 AND 1996

Persons
Proportion of all overseas born
Persons
Proportion of all overseas born
2006
'000
%
1996
'000
%

1
England
856.9
19.4
England
872.1
22.3
2
New Zealand
389.5
8.8
New Zealand
291.4
7.5
3
China(a)
206.6
4.7
Italy
238.2
6.1
4
Italy
199.1
4.5
Viet Nam
151.1
3.9
5
Viet Nam
159.8
3.6
Scotland
146.3
3.7
6
India
147.1
3.3
Greece
126.5
3.2
7
Scotland
130.2
2.9
China(b)
111.0
2.8
8
Philippines
120.5
2.7
Germany, Federal Republic of
110.3
2.8
9
Greece
110.0
2.5
Philippines
92.9
2.4
10
Germany
106.5
2.4
Netherlands
87.9
2.2
11
South Africa
104.1
2.4
India
77.6
2.0
12
Malaysia
92.3
2.1
Malaysia
76.3
2.0
13
Netherlands
78.9
1.8
Lebanon
70.2
1.8
14
Lebanon
74.9
1.7
Hong Kong
68.4
1.8
15
Hong Kong(c)
71.8
1.6
Poland
65.1
1.7

(a) Excludes Taiwan Province and Special Administrative Regions (SARs): Hong Kong (SAR of China) and Macau (SAR of China).
(b) Excludes Taiwan Province.
(c) SAR of China.
Source: ABS 2006 Census data


England, New Zealand, China, India and South Africa are the top five countries of birth for newly arrived Australian residents.

TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF BIRTH FOR RECENT ARRIVALS

Persons who arrived between 2001 & 2006
Proportion of total arrivals between 2001 & 2006
'000
%

1
England
89.7
11.9
2
New Zealand
82.2
10.9
3
China(a)
71.7
9.5
4
India
59.9
7.9
5
South Africa
32.7
4.3

a) Excludes Taiwan Province and Special Administrative Regions (SARs): Hong Kong (SAR of China) and Macau (SAR of China).
Source: ABS 2006 Census data


Christianity is the most common religion of recent arrivals. Census data show that 46.1% of people who arrived between 2002 and 2006 declared Christianity to be their religion compared with 63.9% of those who arrived before 2002.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS BY YEAR OF ARRIVAL

Arrived 2002 to 2006Arrived prior to 2002
'000
%
'000
%

Christianity
299.1
46.1
2 269.8
63.9
No religion
144.8
22.3
581.8
16.4
Islam
53.2
8.2
135.9
3.8
Buddhism
51.8
8.0
222.0
6.2
Hinduism
46.9
7.2
70.3
2.0
Not stated
32.3
5.0
183.1
5.2
Other religions
12.5
1.9
33.8
1.0
Judaism
4.5
0.7
37.9
1.1
Total
649.4
100.0
3 554.4
100.0

Source: ABS 2006 Census data


The changing country of birth profile has resulted in changes to Australia's mix of religions. It is not clear however that changes in the country of birth profile will result in similar changes in the profile of religions, based on the mix of religions in the countries of origin. Generally, there are similarities between the religious profiles of source countries – such as England, New Zealand, China, Italy, Scotland, the Philippines and Greece – and the religious affiliations of Australian residents born in those countries. In some cases, however, there are significant differences.

The table below provides information about religious affiliation of residents in the top 15 countries of birth of migrants to Australia compared with that of Australian residents born in those countries. While the table provides data for each country of origin, it is important to note that this is intended to provide a general indication of the three main religious affiliations in these countries. These data are from a variety of sources and the collection methods may vary from that of the ABS. For example, the classifications used for religious groups and questions asked may differ from those used by the ABS in the Census of Population and Housing to describe the religion of Australian residents born in these overseas countries. Hence the data are not strictly comparable and caution should be exercised when interpreting results.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION IN AUSTRALIA AND COUNTRY OF ORIGIN

England Main religions in England (& Wales)(a)
Christianity (72%)
No religion (15%)
Not stated (8%)
Religion of Australian residents born in England(b)
Christianity (69%)
No religion (22%)
Not stated (7%)
New ZealandMain religions in New Zealand(c)
Christianity (56%)
No religion (35%)
Not stated (6%)
Religion of Australian residents born in New Zealand(b)
Christianity (57%)
No religion (30%)
Not stated (9%)
China Main religions in China(d) 1991 data
Atheist (61%)
Buddhism (17%)
Other non-Christian religions (14%)
Religion of Australian residents born in China(b)
No religion (58%)
Buddhism (18%)
Christianity (15%)
ItalyMain religions in Italy(e)
Christianity (Roman Catholic) (90%)
na
na
Religion of Australian residents born in Italy(b)
Christianity (95%)
No religion (2%)
Not stated (2%)
Viet NamMain religions in Viet Nam(f)
No religion (81%)
Buddhism (9%)
Christianity (7%)
Religion of Australian residents born in Viet Nam(b)
Buddhism (59%)
Christianity (26%)
No religion (11%)
IndiaMain religions in India(d) 2001 data
Hinduism (81%)
Muslim (13%)
Christianity (2%)
Religion of Australian residents born in India(b)
Hinduism (44%)
Christianity (34%)
Other religions (13%)
Scotland Main religions in Scotland(a)
Christianity (65%)
No religion (28%)
Not stated (6%)
Religion of Australian residents born in Scotland(b)
Christianity (69%)
No religion (22%)
Not stated (8%)
PhilippinesMain religions in the Philippines(d) 2000 data
Christianity (Roman Catholic) (81%)
Islam (5%)
Christianity (Evangelical) (3%)
Religion of Australian residents born in the Philippines(b)
Christianity (95%)
Not stated (2%)
No religion (2%)
GreeceMain religions in Greece(e)
Christianity (Greek Orthodox) (98%)
Muslim (1.3%)
Other (0.7%)
Religion of Australian residents born in Greece(b)
Christianity (95%)
Not stated (2%)
No religion (2%)
GermanyMain religions in Germany(g)
Christianity (62%)
No religion/Not stated (29%)
Islam (4%)
Religion of Australian residents born in Germany(b)
Christianity (70%)
No religion (19%)
Not stated (7%)
South AfricaMain religions in South Africa(d) 2001 data
Christianity (79%)
No religion (15%)
Islam (1%)
Religion of Australian residents born in South Africa(b)
Christianity (65%)
No religion (12%)
Judaism (11%)
MalaysiaMain religions in Malaysia(d) 2000 data
Islam (60%)
Buddhism (19%)
Christian (9%)
Religion of Australian residents born in Malaysia(b)
Christianity (43%)
Buddhism (26%)
No religion (16%)
NetherlandsMain religions in the Netherlands(h)
Christianity (52%)
No religion (39%)
Islam (6%)
Religion of Australian residents born in the Netherlands(b)
Christianity (61%)
No religion (29%)
Not stated (8%)
LebanonMain religions in Lebanon(e)
Muslim (60%)
Christianity (39%)
Other (1%)
Religion of Australian residents born in Lebanon(b)
Christianity (53%)
Islam (40%)
Not stated (3%)
Hong KongMain religions in Hong Kong(i)
Buddhism (na)
Taoism (na)
Other religions (na)
Religion of Australian residents born in Hong Kong(b)
No religion (43%)
Christianity (38%)
Buddhism (11%)

na not available
(a) Source: Office for National Statistics, Government of the United Kingdom, 2001 Census
(b) Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Census
(c) Source: Statistics New Zealand, 2006 Census
(d) Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Census data
(e) Source: Central Intelligence Agency, United States Government, The World Factbook
(The Italian National Institute of Statistics and the National Statistical Service of Greece do not collect these data.)
(f) Source: General Statistics Office of Vietnam, 1999 Census
(g) Source: Religious Media Research and Information Service, Germany, 2005 data
(The Federal Statistical Office do not collect these data but provided contact details for Remid.)
(h) Source: Statistics Netherlands, 2003 data
(i) Source: Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 2006 Yearbook


The following sections highlight four countries of origin where there appear to be differences between the mix of religions among residents of the country compared to Australian residents born in that country.

VIET NAM

Data from the General Statistics Office of Vietnam indicate 81% of their population reported 'No religion' in their census compared to 11% of Australian residents born in Viet Nam. There are also significant differences in the proportion of people recording Buddhism or Christianity as their religion.

RELIGIONS OF AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS BORN IN VIET NAM,
Compared with Vietnamese residents
Graph: Religions of Australian Residents Born in Viet Nam, Compared with Vietnamese residents


INDIA

While there has been a significant increase in the number of Australian residents born in India, the religious affiliation of this group does not reflect that of Indian residents. The United Nations Statistics Division report that in 2001 the three religions of India with the most adherents were: Hinduism (81%), Islam (13%) and Christianity (2%) yet ABS 2006 Census data show the religious affiliation of the Australian population born in India as: Hinduism (44%), Christianity (34%) and Other religions (13%).

RELIGIONS OF AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS BORN IN INDIA,
Compared with Indian residents
Graph: Religions of Australian Residents Born in India, Compared with Indian residents


MALAYSIA

In 2000 the three main religions in Malaysia were Islam (60%), Buddhism (19%) and Christianity (9%). However Australian residents born in Malaysia gave their religious affiliation as Christianity (43%), Buddhism (26%) and 'No religion' (16%) in the 2006 Census. Although Malaysia has a predominately Muslim population, only 5% of Malaysian-born Australians cited Islam as their religion.

RELIGIONS OF AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS BORN IN MALAYSIA,
Compared with Malaysian residents
Graph: Religions of Australian Residents Born in Malaysia, Compared with Malaysian residents


LEBANON

In Lebanon, 60% of residents cite Islam as their religion. The majority of Lebanese-born people in Australia report Christianity (53%) while 40% cited their religion as Islam.

RELIGIONS OF AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS BORN IN LEBANON,
Compared with Lebanese residents
Graph: Religions of Australian Residents Born in Lebanon, Compared with Lebanese residents


These examples indicate that it can be misleading to use birthplace as an indicator of religion in some cases. The relationship between birthplace, religion and ethnicity is complex. Although Census data show that there is no consistent association between 'country of birth' and 'religious affiliation', 'country of birth' is present in a wide range of survey and administrative data and is often used to infer a broad range of characteristics (e.g. English proficiency). This article shows that caution should be exercised when using 'country of birth' in this fashion. Similarly, it is important to carefully consider the relationship between 'country of birth' and other measures of ethnicity and cultural diversity such as 'Ancestry', 'Country of birth of parents', 'Language spoken at home' and 'Religion'. These can provide different perspectives on issues but care is required, particularly if these indicators are used in isolation.


LIST OF REFERENCES

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2005, Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), cat. no. 1266.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2007, 2006 Census of Population and Housing: Media Releases and Fact Sheets, cat. no. 2914.0.55.002, ABS Canberra.

Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region 2007, 'Chapter 18 Religion and Custom', Hong Kong 2006, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://www.yearbook.gov.hk/2006/en/index.htm>.

Central Intelligence Agency, United States Government 2008, The World Factbook, viewed 5 February 2008, <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.htmlcia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index>.

General Statistics Office of Vietnam 2004, Population and Housing Census Vietnam 1999, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://www.gso.gov.vn/default_en.aspx?tabid=491>.

Office for National Statistics, Government of the United Kingdom 2007, Census April 2001, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census/>.

Religious Media Research and Information Service 2007, Religion and belief communities in Germany 2005, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://www.remid.de/remid_info_zahlen.htm>.

Statistics Netherlands 2003, Nearly as many Muslims as Calvinists in the Netherlands, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://www.cbs.nl/en-GB/default.htm>.

Statistics New Zealand 2007, 'Religious affiliation', 2006 Census: QuickStats About Culture and Identity, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://www.stats.govt.nz/census/default.htm>.

United Nations Statistics Division 2006, Demographic Yearbook 2004, viewed 5 February 2008, <http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/default.htm>.


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