(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)
The ABS figures show Australia’s overseas-born population is now well over a quarter of the total population.
That’s an extra 1.7 million migrants who’ve come to Australia in the last decade.
Assistant director of demography at the ABS, Neil Scott, says the last time migration levels were this high was before World War Two.
“So over recent years probably about 60 per cent of our population growth, roughly, is now coming from overseas, where as about 40 per cent is from the birth of young Australians.”
Western Australia has the highest proportion of migrants, with more than one-third of its population born overseas.
The ABS says there are twice as many British expats living in the west than anywhere else in Australia.
Dr Bob Birrell is from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University.
“British migrants are predominantly coming in the skilled category and they’re going to where the most jobs are available, which in recent years have been in Western Australia and Queensland. They, for quite some time, have tended to bypass Victoria and New South Wales.”
Neill Scott says all the states and territories have recorded growth.
“So when you compare the previous census in 2006 to 2011 data, you basically see an increase for all the states and territories. So no one has dropped in terms of the number of overseas born as a proportion of their populations.”
Mr Scott says many migrants are selective about the state or territory they chose to live in.
He says the number of migrants coming from the United Kingdom is slowing, but the numbers from New Zealand, China and India are increasing.
“As a whole, the United Kingdom leads the way in every state and territory as it does at the national level. But once you start looking at the next country of birth, the second place for each of the states and territories, at the Australia level you’ve got New Zealand. That’s also the same for Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. But when you start looking at New South Wales and the ACT, it’s China. For Victoria, India is in second place. But for South Australia, Italy is in second place.”
The ABS says many people migrating to Australia now do so on temporary visas, like student or 457 visas.
Dr Bob Birrell says a proportion of these go on to live longer-term in Australia.
He says this is fuelling growth in some migrant communities in cities like Sydney and Melbourne.
“What’s significant about these figures is they show that New South Wales and Victoria continue to be the main settlement points for overseas migrants, but they’re predominantly in the Asian category, that is to those two states, and that reflects that, one, many of the migrants who are counted came here as temporary residents, students in particular, and have subsequently gone on to obtain residence or various other visas which enable them to stay.”
Angela Chan from the Migration Institute of Australia says it makes sense that migrant numbers continue to grow in Australia.
She says skilled workers overseas who are willing to move country for work will move to where the jobs are.
And she rejects suggestions that people coming to Australia on 457 visas are subjected to poor working conditions.
“Any person who is sponsored under the 457 regime, I believe, are quite protected because sponsors have to go through a very detailed process before they can sponsor workers. Yes, there are people who slip through the gaps. That is always going to be the way in any system.”