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Feature Article - Recent Trends in Overseas Migration
FIGURE 1. TOTAL POPULATION GROWTH, NATURAL INCREASE AND NET MIGRATION, 1947 TO 1990 (footnote 1)
About 5 million people have settled permanently in Australia since World War II, accounting for more than 10 per cent of the total population increase.
There have been considerable fluctuations in immigration levels since 1947, ranging from a low of 52 700 in 1975-76 to a high of 185,100 in 1969-70.
This major reason for the fluctuations has been changes in government policy. Immediately after the war, the government introduced a policy (footnote 2) to increase the population by 2 per cent a year: 1 per cent by natural increase and 1 per cent by net migration. Until 1971, net migration averaged 0.91 per cent, although there were sizeable fluctuations from year to year. In the period from 1972 to 1978, net migration averaged only 0.36 per cent a year. In mid 1978, a Ministerial statement based on a Green Paper (footnote 3) changed the basis of planning from annual migration targets to triennial migration programs which could be amended and reviewed. Currently, targets are announced annually after a review of economic, social and demographic trends. In the past ten years, 1981-1990, the population increased by an average of 0.68 per cent through overseas migration.
About 1.4 million people left Australia permanently between 1947 and 1990, equivalent to almost 30 per cent of the total settler arrivals in the same period. The number of permanent departures has fluctuated considerably, ranging from 11,400 in 1960-61 to 44,900 in 1972-73.
Sources of Immigrants
Although the United Kingdom/lreland has remained the major source of immigrants since the war, the contributions of other countries have varied greatly. Just after the war, European countries were the major source of immigrants, but in recent years Asian countries have increased their representation.
Permanent Settlers and Long-term Arrivals
Since the war, there has been considerable variation in the relative numbers of permanent settlers and long-term arrivals (that is, those intending to stay for 12 months or more but not to settle permanently). In 1959, nearly 80 per cent of all senttlers and long-term arrivals were settlers. This proportion dropped to just over 40 per cent in 1975, then gradually increased to about 55 per cent by 1990. See Figure 2.
FIGURE 2. PERMANENT ARRIVALS AND LONG-TERM ARRIVALS AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL PERMANENT AND LONG-TERM ARRIVALS, 1959-1990
Since 1959, more than 95 per cent of people coming from developing countries, such as Lebanon and Vietnam, have been permanent settlers. For developed countries, such as the U.S.A and Japan, the proportion of settlers has been much lower, and the number of long-term visitors has exceeded the number of settlers in some cases.
Age and Sex Composition
Table 1 displays the age composition of settler arrivals in 1959 and 1990. Although there was little overall change in the proportion of people aged between 20 and 64 years, the 20 to 29 year age group shrank about 7 percentage points, offset by an expansion in the 30 to 64 year group.
TABLE 1. AGE AND SEX COMPOSITION OF SETTLERS
Figure 3 illustrates the sex composition of settler arrivals since 1959. Between 1959 and 1974, the number of male settlers exceeded females in most years, with the ratio peaking at 1.34. Since 1974, the total numbers of male and female settlers have been roughly equal.
FIGURE 3. RATIO OF MALES TO FEMALES, SETTLER ARRIVALS, 1959 TO 1990
IMMIGRATION IN THE 1980s
Sources of Immigrants
Table 2 shows the ten most important countries of birth of immigrants at the beginning and end of the 1980s. Broadly, countries in Northeast, Southeast and South Asia had become much more significant and countries in Europe much less significant sources by the end of the decade.
TABLE 2. MAJOR SOURCES OF SETTLER ARRIVALS
Figures 4 and 5 illustrate trends in the numbers of immigrants drawn from the three most significant source countries in Europe and Oceania (United Kingdom, New Zealand and Poland) and in East and South-East Asia (Philippines, Vietnam and Hong Kong) respectively.
FIGURE 4. IMMIGRATION LEVELS FOR THE THREE LARGEST CONTRIBUTORS IN EUROPE AND OCEANIA, YEARS ENDING JUNE 1982-1990
FIGURE 5. IMMIGRATION LEVELS FOR THE THREE LARGEST CONTRIBUTORS IN EAST AND SOUTH-EAST ASIA, YEARS ENDING JUNE 1982-1990
Permanent settlers arrive as either visaed or non-visaed settlers. Non-visaed settlers include New Zealand citizens travelling to Australia under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, Australian children born overseas and residents of the Cocos Islands and Norfolk Island.
During the 1980s, visaed settlers have entered Australia under one of the following programs:
In 1989 these five programs were reclassified to four, and the program names were changed slightly. The Independent Migration Program was subsumed under the Skill Migration Program (previously the Skilled Labour and Business Migration Program).
TABLE 3. PROGRAMS FOR VISAED SETTLER ARRIVALS, 1989-90
In 1989-90, the Family Migration program accounted for 74 per cent of settlers born in the Middle East, 68 per cent of those born in Southern Europe and 57 per cent of those born in East and South-East Asia. The Skilled Migrant program accounted for 62 per cent of settlers born in North-East Asia and 52 per cent of those born in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Refugee and Special Humanitarian program accounted for 46 per cent of settlers born in Central and South America.
Table 4 shows the number of people coming to Australia under the Skilled Labour and Business Migration and the Independent Migration Programs has increased. It should be noted that the definitions of the categories changed slightly through the decade, making it difficult to analyse trends.
TABLE 4. NUMBERS OF INDEPENDENT AND SKILLED LABOUR AND BUSINESS MIGRANTS
SETTLERS IN 1989-90
In 1989-90, 36 per cent of permanent arrivals were dependent children and 5 per cent were retired persons.
Of settlers born in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, 32 per cent were dependent children. In contrast, almost half the Taiwanese settlers were children. Of settlers born in China, a very small proportion were children and 16 per cent were retired. Some Chinese born settlers may have had children who were born in Hong Kong or Taiwan.
The median age of settlers in 1989-90 was 27.2 years for males and 26.7 years for females, somewhat lower than for the Australian resident population (31.5 years for males and 32.8 years for females). New Zealand born settlers had the lowest median ages of any birthplace group (22.7 years for males and 22.2 years for females). Vietnamese settlers were also young and were accompanied by a comparatively large number of male children, causing a noticeably lower median age for males of 22.5 years, compared with 25.2 years for females. Settlers born in China tended to be much older, with a median age of 42.4 years for males and 41.0 years for females.
Of settlers arriving in 1989-90, 45 per cent described themselves as having an occupation. Of these, 42 per cent were married males, 24 per cent married females, 20 per cent single males and 13 per cent single females.
Almost one-third (32 per cent) of New Zealand settlers were single and of working age (15-64 years), the highest proportion for any major source country, followed by Vietnam (24 per cent) and Ireland (19 per cent). In contrast, only 5 per cent of settlers born in Fiji were single and of working age.
Occupations of Immigrants (footnote 4)
Tables 5 and 6 show selected occupations of settlers in 1989-90. The occupations of male settler arrivals varied considerably according to their country of birth. Hong Kong, Malaysia and the United Kingdom contributed a large proportion of the engineers, accountants, computer programmers and systems analysts. The United Kingdom also contributed many of the carpenters, fitters and mechanics; and Taiwan, China and Hong Kong contributed many of the proprietors and contractors.
TABLE 5. SELECTED OCCUPATIONS FOR MALE SETTLER ARRIVALS, 1989-90
The major occupations of female settlers were as clerks, typists and nurses, but again there was a good deal of variation according to their country of birth. Hong Kong and Malaysia contributed almost one third of female computing personnel, while Vietnam contributed about two thirds of clothing and textile workers and half the factory workers. The sources of female proprietors were much the same as for males: one-third were born in Taiwan and significant numbers were born in Hong Kong and China.
TABLE 6. SELECTED OCCUPATIONS FOR FEMALE SETTLER ARRIVALS, 1989-90
Throughout the 1980s, migrants wishing to enter Australia via the Family Migration, Independent Migration or Skilled Labour and Business Migration Programs, have been assessed on many different aspects of their ability to cope in Australia. These have included their skills, age, education, occupational demand, English speaking ability and economic prospects.
In the early 1980s, occupational demand was categorised in terms of shortage or oversupply. Extra points were awarded for occupations in short supply, to encourage migrants in these occupations to come to Australia.
In July 1986, the first Designated Occupations List (now known as the Priority Occupation list) was prepared, containing 43 different occupations which were in demand at that time. This list was updated at regular intervals. The types of occupations on these lists have varied greatly, ranging from electronics engineers and computer professionals to sheetmetal workers and pastry cooks. The same types of occupations have often been in short supply throughout the last four years. Computing professionals, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and radiographers are just a few of the occupations which have appeared regularly.
MIGRATION AND THE ECONOMY
Up to 1970, immigration was primarily concerned with stimulating population growth and increasing the labour force, particularly in industries identified as needing additional skills and experience which the current Australian population could not supply. Incentives in the form of assisted passages and accommodation, as well as jobs, were offered to attract both skilled and unskilled migrants. Initially, these were from the United Kingdom and displaced persons from Eastern Europe, later followed by waves of migrants from Northern Europe (mainly Germany and the Netherlands) and then from Southern Europe including Italy, Malta, Greece and Yugoslavia.
Since 1970, more attention has been paid to current economic conditions in the setting of settler targets. Thus a closer correlation may be seen between these targets and economic conditions in Australia (but generally with a time lag of about one year, as targets are set for future migrant intakes based on current and expected conditions and requirements). In the last ten years, policies and targets have put increasing emphasis on social and humanitarian factors. More recently, there has been increased concern about requirements to conserve resources and achieve a sustainable population in setting migration levels. Assisted migration has been phased out except for refugees, as there is now sufficient interest in migration to Australia for targets to be achieved without incentives. However, attracting people with skills in short supply is still an important issue.
Overall, annual targets have been reasonably well achieved, with numbers of settler arrivals often being close to the numbers expected. However, where targets are not completely met, there is usually a complex set of reasons. Migration flow is influenced not only by economic conditions in Australia, but also by those in other countries. Europe has experienced an economic recovery over the last two decades, with improved living conditions and even labour shortages in some countries. Australia is apparently less attractive to Europeans now than before 1970.
Other factors influencing how well a target is met are the controls placed on the various types of migrant programs and the increasing effects of chain migration, where people who have previously migrated encourage family and friends to join them. The current Family Migration category is largely driven by this effect, and in 1990 was running ahead of expectations, largely owing to parents of migrants from Vietnam and the Philippines migrating to Australia (footnote 5).
Numbers of settlers arriving as part of the Labour and Business Migration categories are most influenced by economic conditions, as these are the categories most dependent on current labour market requirements. There was a noticeable reduction in migrants in this category "particularly the Skilled Labour sub category - see Table 3) in response to economic conditions in 1983 while the Family Migration and Refugee categories were much less affected. Trans Tasman movement, which is mainly by non visaed settlers and largely work related, has also been influenced by economic conditions, showing a sharp decline to 1984, but recovering to a peak in 1989 and once again starting to decline in 1990.
EMIGRATION IN THE 1980s
Emigration of highly skilled persons from Australia to apparently more desirable countries has been perceived as a problem for some time. However, leaving Australia may often be motivated by personal changes as well as economic ones. People may leave Australia for reasons of retirement, family breakdown and crises or homesickness, as well as for more lucrative or satisfying work or better opportunities in their particular fields. Some occupations, particularly in professional and technical fields, may require movement for career advancement, and working overseas can be seen to be particularly advantageous.
Table 7 shows the number of permanent departures in the 1980s. There was an increase in emigration during times of economic downturn but otherwise numbers were fairly stable, tending to follow the trend of settler arrivals with a time lag of 1-2 years. There was a noticeable rise in 1989-90 due, in part, to an increase in departures of residents other than former settlers.
TABLE 7. PERMANENT DEPARTURES, 1981-1990
Of former settlers leaving Australia permanently in the 1980s, about one-third were born in the United Kingdom, one-third in New Zealand and the rest mainly in Europe (especially Germany, Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia and Malta) and North America. Very few former settlers born in Asia departed permanently. More than half of the 'other residents' who left Australia over the last ten years were Australian born and 15-20 per cent were New Zealand born.
TABLE 8. PERMANENT DEPARTURES BY COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, 1981-90
PERMANENT DEPARTURES IN 1989-90
Occupations of Emigrants
The decision to leave Australia permanently may be influenced by occupational opportunity overseas or lack of opportunity in Australia. People in trade-based occupations appear to be influenced by general economic conditions with large increases in the numbers of departures having occurred in 1982-83 and 1989-90, both years of lower economic activity.
TABLE 9. SELECTED OCCUPATIONS OF PERMANENT DEPARTURES, 1989-90
People in the building industry appear particularly mobile in such times. In the 1980s, medical personnel (both doctors and nurses), engineers and those in managerial positions have shown an increasing tendency to emigrate. In 1989-90, 289 pilots left Australia following a major industrial dispute; this contrasted with about 20 per year in earlier years.
In 1989-90, 34 per cent of nurses emigrating from Australia intended to settle in New Zealand. Of the pilots who emigrated, 69 per cent intended to settle in South-East Asia, mainly in Hong Kong and Singapore; engineers intended to settle mainly in North America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South-East Asia; 38 per cent of tradesmen who left Australia were New Zealanders returning to their country of origin, while another 39 per cent of tradesmen leaving Australia intended to settle in the United Kingdom and Europe (almost half of these were settlers returning to their country of origin).
Age and Sex Composition of Emigrants
Males in the 25-34 years age group, females in the 20-34 years age group and children in the 0-4 years age group were the largest groups of emigrants. New Zealand born migrants had lower median ages than either Australian born or other former settlers who left Australia. The youngest group were single females born in New Zealand who had a median age of 24.4 years.
TABLE 10. MEDIAN AGES OF PERMANENT DEPARTURES IN THE AGE GROUP 15 TO 64 YEARS, 1989-90
Destinations of Emigrants
A large proportion of emigrants who were former settlers returned to their country of birth (see Table 11).
TABLE 11. DEPARTURES OF FORMER SETTLERS
Almost all New Zealand born former settlers who emigrated in 1989-90 returned to New Zealand; the corresponding proportion for the Greek born was 94 per cent. Among the major countries supplying settlers, the lowest such proportion (15 per cent) was for the Chinese born. For former settlers of working age who did not return to their country of birth, the United Kingdom was the most popular destination, followed by New Zealand, the U.S.A. and Hong Kong.
For Australian born persons leaving permanently, New Zealand was the most popular destination, followed by Canada and Southern Europe. The USA was most popular with married persons leaving for work-related purposes.
TABLE 12. DESTINATIONS FOR FORMER SETTLERS AND AUSTRALIAN BORN AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL
EFFECTS OF UNEMPLOYMENT RATES ON NET MIGRATION
Unemployment rates varied considerably through the 1980s, ranging from a low of 5.2 per cent of the labour force in June 1981 to a high of 11.2 per cent in February 1983. These unemployment rates (the high ones being associated with the recession in the early 80s), can be correlated with the overall net migration. In many cases the net increase as a result of migration, for certain occupational groups, dropped considerably in the financial years 1983-84 and 1984-85. This was especially significant for building and construction workers, who showed a net migration loss in the financial year of 1983-84. Other occupational groups for which net migration, as a percentage of total net migration, dropped when unemployment rates rose include nurses, engineers, motor mechanics and delivery men.
Changes in the overall structure of the labour force can also be related to the availability of employment. It is noticeable that in 1983-84, the proportion of settlers who arrived as part of the workforce was the lowest for the decade and the proportion departing permanently who classified themselves as in the workforce was high (see Table 13). Recently, although the proportion in the workforce leaving permanently has been the highest for the decade, the proportion arriving has remained steady for the last 3 years. The net effect has been a slight loss in the proportion in the labour force. However, as more than four settlers have arrived for every permanent departure, this represents only a small redistribution and overall is still a considerable gain to the labour force.
TABLE 13. MIGRANTS IN THE LABOUR FORCE AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL MIGRANTS
Brain Drain or Gain?
Although there was a reduction in migrant numbers for most occupations during the earlier part of the 1980s, the overall effect for Australia has meant significant gains in most occupations, particularly in the professions and skilled trades. Pilots are the only occupation which has registered a net outflow from Australia (in the years 1985-86 to 1989-90). In most cases, for selected occupations, the second half of the decade has produced double the net migration figure compared with the first half.
TABLE 14. MIGRANTS WITH PROFESSIONAL OCCUPATIONS AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL MIGRANTS WITH OCCUPATIONS
When the net additions to specific occupational groups are analysed and compared with the numbers in the corresponding groups at Census time, the numbers do not seem particularly significant, but when considered over a longer time period they would have a significant cumulative effect. In the period 1982 to 1986, computer programmers and systems analysts showed the greatest net addition compared with the number in these occupations who were counted in Australia at the 1981 census, with an increase of 143 computer professionals in this period for every 1000 people in these occupations in 1981. Scientists also showed a high net addition of 82 per 1000 as a result of migration.
From 1987 to 1990, computer professionals again scored a high net gain with 130 for every 1000 counted in the 1986 census, although workers in the clothing trades scored even higher with a net addition of 135 per 1000. Engineers almost doubled their net rate of gain in the second part of the decade compared with the 1982 to 1986 period and again scientists were well represented. When the rate of permanent arrivals is compared with the rate of permanent departures for migrants in selected occupations, between 1982 and 1986 there were roughly 2-3 settlers arriving for every permanent departure. Accountants (11:1) and workers in the clothing trade (6:1) both showed ratios well above the average levels. Between 1987 and 1990, there were about 4 arrivals for every departure for most occupations (probably reflecting the effects of the improvement in the economy and better job prospects). Engineers and bricklayers (both 6 arrivals per departure) and those in the clothing trades (11 arrivals per departure) showed higher gains. Accountants, although arriving at a higher rate per departure than most occupations, showed a lower ratio than during the earlier part of the decade. Computer professionals showed a steady rate for the whole decade, at about 9 arrivals per departure. Pilots, the only occupation to show a net outflow from Australia, left at a rate of 2 departures for every arrival over the last four years.
Based on this evidence, it would seem that in most cases Australia is gaining more skills from other countries than it is losing to them on a permanent basis. Although there are significant movements out of Australia of highly qualified people, there are even larger numbers arriving to take their place even during times of low economic growth. However, as the median age of permanent departures is somewhat higher than the median age of settler arrivals, there may be some loss to Australia of more experienced people.
Government policies and economic conditions, both in Australia and in major source and destination countries, have had a significant influence on both immigration and emigration.
Although there has been a steady reduction in the number of settlers arriving in Australia relative to the total population (11 per 1000 population in 1959, compared with 7 per 1000 population recently) there has been a relative increase in the number with professional and trade qualifications. This is partly accounted for by the increasing proportion of migrants entering Australia through the Independent, Business and Skilled Migration programs where level of skill is an important factor in acceptance.
Emigration depends on many complex reasons. As Australia does not control departures and as arrivals respond to current economic conditions, migration can be an unpredictable component of population change.
This feature article was contributed by Jennie Widdowson and Chris Ryan, ABS.
(1) Population growth is calculated using net migration and natural increase and adjusted for intercensal discrepancies which are relatively small. There is a break in the series for total population in 1971. Estimates before 1971 were compiled on the basis of the actual location of the population, while estimates since 1971 have been compiled on the basis of usual residence. Estimates since 1971 also include an adjustment to take into account under estimation at the population censuses. Back
(2) A.A. Calwell, Immigration - Government Policy, Ministerial Statement to the House of Representatives, 2 August 1945. Back
(3) Australian Population and Immigration Council, Immigration Policies and Australia's Population: A Green Paper. (AGPS 1977). Back
(4) This is not the current ASCO classification but a classification used by DILGEA which was based on the CCLO (Classification and Classified List of Occupations) used by ABS prior to ASCO and was similar to the ILO classification of occupations. Back
(5) Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Australia's Population Trends and Prospects, 1990, page 34. Back
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