4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
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The cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of Australia's resident population has changed over the years, largely due to migration. Patterns of migration to Australia have been shaped by events and policies both in Australia and other parts of the world. Historically, the majority of migration has come from Europe, but increasingly there are more Australians who were born in Asia and other parts of the world.

There is widespread recognition of the positive contribution that migrants play in the economic and social wellbeing of Australian life (DIBP, 2014). Accurate and detailed statistics help formulate policies to plan, promote, deliver and evaluate essential services to achieve positive social and economic outcomes for migrants.


Many migrants come to Australia to explore new opportunities and to provide a better life for their children.

There are a range of events, pressures and drivers of change that have the potential to substantially affect wellbeing of migrants:

  • reasons for migrating including push factors which drive people away from a place and pull factors that draw people to a new location
  • experiences prior to migrating, or during the migration process - e.g. experiences of pleasure or trauma, educational qualifications, work experience and life events
  • feelings of belonging, a sense of home
  • community participation
  • level of English proficiency
  • safety and feeling safe, especially if escaping violence
  • experience of racial discrimination
  • settlement policy and other factors which facilitate settlement
  • ability to obtain Australian residency and citizenship
  • visa arrangements, requirements and restrictions
  • access to services, aimed to assist and integrate migrants e.g. to language services, education, Medicare, family assistance
  • community groups (religious groups, volunteer organisations) able to help migrants settle in
  • recognition of overseas qualifications.


A migrant is 'any person who changes his or her country of usual residence' (United Nations 1998). The country of usual residence is the country in which a person lives, that is to say, the country in which they have a place to live where they normally spend the daily period of rest. A long-term international migrant is a person who moves to a country other than that of their usual residence for a period of at least a year (12 months), so that the country of destination effectively becomes his or her new country of usual residence.

It is important to explicitly set out what is meant by the term 'migrant' and understand how it relates to the collection and disaggregation of information for the population. It is important to choose a definition which is suitable to the question of interest and which allows appropriate comparability of data. For example there might be interest in measuring:
  • the overseas born population
  • the overseas born population who are permanent Australian residents
  • the overseas born who are permanent Australian residents and have lived in Australia for 12 months or more over a 16 month period
  • second and/or third generation migrants.

Migrants are a highly diverse group. Depending on the purpose and area of interest, a range of characteristics of migrants should be considered when measuring the wellbeing of migrants, including information on:
  • cultural background (language, religion, country, ancestry)
  • year of arrival in Australia
  • type of entry visa:
    • temporary business migrants
    • temporary overseas students
    • refugee or humanitarian migrants
    • skilled migrants
    • business migrants
    • family migrants
    • New Zealand citizens, who are free to travel between Australia and NZ
  • reasons for migrating to Australia
  • sociopolitical experiences prior to and following arrival
  • qualifications and work experience
  • English language proficiency.

There can be incomplete coverage of the migrant population in survey data or administrative records used to produce statistics due to factors such as:
  • non-response rates or undercoverage for some migrant sub groups
  • participant loss of some sub groups of migrants in longitudinal studies, particularly if migrants: return to their country of origin (return migration), migrate to a third country, or change location (where they live) within Australia.


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2015, We must harness the true strength of migration - This article examines the strengths of migrants in modern society.

Office for National Statistics, UK, Conceptual Framework for Population and Migrant statistics - The conceptual framework for UK population and migration statistics has been developed as part of Phase 2 of the migration statistics improvement programme. The purpose of the framework is to facilitate communication between users and providers of population and migration statistics. It is designed to promote understanding of the concepts, data sources and processes that together shape population and migration statistics outputs, and how these fit with the uses to which they are put.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Migration, Australia, 2013-14 (cat. no. 3412.0) - This publication brings together statistics on international migration into and out of Australia, interstate migration within Australia and information on overseas-born residents of Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Perspectives on Migrants, Mar 2013 (cat. no. 3416.0) - This publication 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.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Guide to Migrant Statistical Sources, 2011 (Edition 2) (cat. no. 3414.0) - This publication provides a list of sources of data relating to migrants. These are both ABS sources and non-ABS sources.

Australian Bureau of Statistics: Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity, 1999 (cat. no. 1289.0) - This publication provides the conceptual framework for measuring cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia.

United Nations Statistical Division (2003) Ethnicity: A Review of Data Collection and Dissemination, Social and Housing Statistics Section Demographic and Social Statistics Branch - This publication provides an international context of how various countries measure attributes of ethnicity.

Hugo, G. (2011) Economic, social and civic contributions of first and second generation humanitarian entrants, report prepared for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australian Government - This publication provides a comprehensive view at the various contributions made by humanitarian migrants over their life cycle.


Recent migrants

Recent migrants are defined as people who were born overseas, arrived in the last 10 years and have permanent Australian resident status by holding a permanent visa or having gained Australian citizenship.

Temporary entrants

Temporary entrants are defined as people who were born overseas, who do not have permanent Australian resident status.

Net interstate migration

The difference between the number of persons who have changed their place of usual residence by moving into a given state or territory and the number who have changed their place of usual residence by moving out of that state or territory during a specified time period. This difference can be either positive or negative.

Net overseas migration (NOM)

Net overseas migration is the net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia and emigration from Australia. Under the current ABS method for estimating final net overseas migration this term is based on a traveller's actual duration of stay or absence using the '12/16 month rule'. Preliminary NOM estimates are modelled on patterns of traveller behaviours observed in final NOM estimates for the same period one year earlier. NOM is:
  • based on an international traveller's duration of stay being in or out of Australia for 12 months or more over a 16-month period;
  • the difference between:
    • the number of incoming international travellers who stay in Australia for 12 months or more over a 16-month period, who are not currently counted within the population, and are then added to the population (NOM arrivals); and
    • the number of outgoing international travellers (Australian residents and long-term visitors to Australia) who leave Australia for 12 months or more over a 16 month period, who are currently counted within the population, and are then subtracted from the population (NOM departures).


Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), 2014, The Place of Migrants in Contemporary Australia: Summary Report, <http://www.immi.gov.au> on 5 June 2015.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2011 (cat. no. 1249.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1997, Language Variables, 1997 (cat..no. 1264.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups, 2011 (cat. no. 1266.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2011 (cat. no. 1267.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC),2011 (cat. no. 1269.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1999, Demographic Variables, 1999 (cat. no. 1285.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1999, Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity, 1999 (cat. no. 1289.0).

Department of Immigration and Border Protection, (2015), The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia (LSIA). Accessed from <http://www.immi.gov.au> on 10 June 2015.

Bell, M. et al., 2002. 'Cross-national comparison of internal migration: issues and measures', Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, vol 165, Part 3, pp. 435-464. Accessed from <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com> on 10 June 2015.

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