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Overseas migration has played an important role in changing Australia's population. Between 1995 and 2000, 1.4 million people arrived in Australia intending to stay for one year or more (table 5.28). This includes permanent (settler) arrivals, Australian residents returning from an overseas trip of 12 months or more, and overseas visitors intending to stay 12 months or more in Australia. About 879,000 people left Australia for overseas on a permanent or long-term basis in the five years to June 2000, including Australian residents emigrating or going overseas for 12 months or more, and overseas visitors leaving Australia after staying for 12 months or more. In 1999-2000, for the first time, net long-term movement made a greater contribution to net overseas migration than did net permanent movement (56,100 people compared with 51,200).
There has been a significant change in the source countries of permanent arrivals, with settlers arriving from more diverse regions of the world since the mid 1990s compared to the late 1960s. In the five years to June 1970 almost half (46%) of settler arrivals to Australia were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the top six countries of birth represented 75% of all settler arrivals in Australia. In the five years to June 2000, the United Kingdom and Ireland contributed 12% of settlers and the top six countries of birth represented 54% of settler arrivals. New Zealand contributed the largest number of settlers in the five years to June 2000: 80,600 persons, or 18% of the total (table 5.29).
In 1999-2000, 92,300 people arrived in Australia intending to settle, the majority of these (57%) arriving as part of the Migration Program. Another 8% arrived as part of the Humanitarian Program, while 34% were eligible to settle in Australia because of their New Zealand citizenship. The remaining 1% were in other categories such as overseas-born children of Australian citizens.
The number of visas issued to prospective settlers varies significantly from year to year. So too does the balance between the types of visas issued. Skilled migration is a volatile component of the migration intake. Table 5.30 shows that in the six years to 1999-2000, the proportion of settlers arriving under the skilled migration category ranged from 23% in 1994-95 to 35% in 1999-2000. Of skilled migrants arriving in 1999-2000, 24% came from Europe (about three-quarters of whom were from the United Kingdom and Ireland), while South-East Asia and Africa (excluding North Africa) contributed 18% each. North-East Asia (16%) and Southern Asia (15%) also contributed relatively high proportions of skilled immigrants to Australia during 1999-2000.
In 1999-2000, 22% of settlers came as part of the family component of Australia's immigration program. The birthplaces of these immigrants partly reflect past migration patterns. About 24% were born in Europe, 23% were born in South-East Asia, and a further 18% were born in North-East Asia.
Of the 7,300 settlers arriving as part of the Humanitarian Program, 3,300 (46%) came from Europe, almost all of whom were from Southern and Eastern Europe (in particular, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia). A further 2,500 immigrants (35%) arriving on humanitarian visas were born in North Africa and the Middle East.
Over the last two decades, the countries of Asia (South-East Asia, North-East Asia and Southern Asia regions) have become an increasingly important source of both settler and long-term visitor arrivals.
Before the 1970s the number of settlers from Asia was small, but following the final dismantling of the White Australia Policy in the early 1970s, and the acceptance of refugees from the Vietnam war, the number of migrants from Asia began to increase.
Generally, the level of permanent arrivals from Asia has followed the patterns of total permanent arrivals, reflecting the constraints of the Migration and Humanitarian Programs. The proportion of Asia-born arrivals has fluctuated markedly, peaking in 1991-92 (51%, or 54,400 arrivals) (see graph 5.31). In 1999-2000 a total of 31,100 settlers born in Asia (34% of all settler arrivals) arrived in Australia.
Graph 5.32 shows that levels of long-term visitor arrivals from Asia have increased greatly over the last 10 years, after being very low during the 1970s and early 1980s. Arrivals in 1999-2000 (70,100 or 53% of all long-term visitor arrivals) were over 10 times as high as in 1979-80 and almost three times as high as in 1989-90. The main reason for this growth has been the increasing number of students travelling to Australia from Asia for educational purposes. In 1999-2000 three-quarters of all Asia-born long-term visitor arrivals were for education.
Country of birth
Since the end of World War II Australia has experienced large yearly increases in population due to a combination of high fertility and high levels of migration. In 1947 the proportion of the population born overseas was 10%, but by June 2000 this proportion had increased to 24% (table 5.33). As well as this increase, there has been a diversification of the population. In 1947, 81% of the overseas-born population came from the main English speaking countries (the United Kingdom and Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States of America), mainly from the United Kingdom and Ireland. By June 2000, only 39% of the overseas-born population had been born in the main English speaking countries.
For the last few decades, the Italian, Greek and Dutch-born populations in Australia have been declining. The major migration flows from these countries occurred immediately after World War II, and there has been relatively little migration more recently. As these populations have moved into the older age groups, they have experienced high numbers of deaths. Furthermore, small numbers of people are returning to their countries of birth in their retirement.
Population estimates for 2000 identified 24% of the population as overseas-born. The 1996 Census showed that 27% of persons born in Australia had at least one overseas-born parent; that is, they were second generation Australians. The variety and size of second generation populations reflect past migration and intermarriage patterns. In long-established overseas-born populations, such as those from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and from northern and southern Europe, second generation Australians account for more than half of the total population. In more recently arrived groups, such as persons born in Vietnam and China, second generation Australians form a smaller part of the birthplace group. This is illustrated in table 5.34.