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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2004  
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Contents >> Population >> Where do the overseas -born population live?

Where do the overseas -born population live?

In 2001, eight out of ten people born overseas lived in a capital city. Just over half were in Sydney or Melbourne.

Since the end of World War II, over six million new settlers have arrived in Australia. Over the same period, from 1947 to 2001, the proportion of the population born overseas increased from 10% to 23%. Most people born overseas have shown a preference for city living - 81% or 3.3 million people lived in capital cities in 2001, making them more highly urbanised than the Australian-born population. This is not a new phenomenon - it has been evident since at least the 1970s. Some of the main factors that affect where migrants decide to live are the location of family members or people of the same ethnic background, the point of entry into the country, and the economic attractiveness of the destination in terms of employment opportunities.(SEE END NOTES 1)

While the focus of immigration policies has shifted considerably over the last 50 years, the geographic distribution of the overseas-born population has only emerged as an area of policy interest in the last 10 years. From 1996, State Specific Migration Mechanisms began to be introduced, in an effort to encourage more migrants to settle in regional areas and to address localised labour shortages. Under these programs, migrants are sponsored by a state government, employee or relative to live and work in regional Australia. About 25,000 visas were granted under these schemes between 1996 and 2003, with the biggest impact being seen in Victoria and South Australia (52% and 17% respectively of these visas granted). Being recent initiatives which target new arrivals, these programs have had little impact on the overall distribution of the overseas-born population.


POPULATION BORN OVERSEAS
GRAPH - POPULATION BORN OVERSEAS


As well as migrants settling permanently in Australia, the overseas-born population includes visitors staying in the country for longer than a year. These visitors include substantial numbers of university students and business people who do not intend to make Australia their permanent home.

PEOPLE BORN OVERSEAS

In this article, data about Australian residents who were born overseas are drawn from the 1971-2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.

In the census, people born overseas include visitors who are studying or working in Australia for more than one year, as well as people who have migrated to Australia on a permanent visa under the Migration and Humanitarian Programs, New Zealand citizens resident in Australia and the overseas-born children of Australian citizens.

The levels of the Migration and Humanitarian Programs are set annually by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Within these Programs there are a variety of visa categories designed to meet specific policy objectives such as Australia’s humanitarian commitment, family reunion and labour shortages. State Specific Migration Mechanisms are a range of initiatives designed to sponsor migrants to live in designated regional areas. They encompass a number of visa categories.


STATE DISTRIBUTION

In 2001, the state distribution of the overseas-born population was similar to the Australian-born population, with most living in New South Wales (36%), Victoria (27%), Queensland (15%) and Western Australia (12%). Compared to the Australian-born population, the overseas-born population was more concentrated in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, but less so in other states and territories, especially Queensland and Tasmania.


STATE POPULATION DISTRIBUTION - 2001
GRAPH - STATE POPULATION DISTRIBUTION - 2001


The most notable changes in the state distribution of the overseas-born population in the 30 years from 1971 to 2001 are that the proportion living in Victoria has fallen from 31% to 27%, and in South Australia from 11% to 7%. In contrast, the proportion living in Queensland has increased from 9% to 15%. These changes tend to mirror changes in the distribution of the Australian-born population over the period.

SECTION OF STATE

People born overseas have a high propensity to live in major cities. In 2001, the overseas-born population was highly concentrated in Major urban areas (82%). These are cities with a population of 100,000 people or more, and include not only all the state capitals and Canberra, but also cities such as Newcastle and Wollongong in New South Wales, Geelong in Victoria and the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Most of the remainder of the overseas-born population lived in Other urban areas (11%), making them more urbanised than the Australian-born population (60% in Major urban areas, and 25% in Other urban areas). Around 5% of the overseas-born population lived in Other rural areas, compared with 12% of the Australian-born population.

The distribution of people born overseas across the Sections of State has not changed substantially over the last 30 years. Around 80% of the overseas-born population lived in Major urban areas in 1971, 1981 and 1991. This proportion rose only slightly between 1991 and 2001, to 82%. Over the same decade, the proportion of the Australian-born population living in Major urban areas also rose slightly, from 58% to 60%.


POPULATION DISTRIBUTION - 2001
GRAPH - POPULATION DISTRIBUTION - 2001

SECTION OF STATE

Regional patterns of residency are described using the Section of State classification. The Section of State structure is a classification within the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001 (ABS cat. no. 1216.0), and is only defined at five year intervals, in conjunction with the census. Major urban areas are urban centres with a population of 100,000 or more. Other urban areas are urban centres with a population of 1,000-99,999. Rural areas consist of Bounded localities which are population clusters of 200-999 and Rural balance which is the remainder of areas, including people living on separate properties.

There was some variation in the degree of urbanisation in different states. In 2001, New South Wales and Victoria had the most urbanised overseas-born populations, both with around 87% living in Major urban areas. In contrast, 34% of Tasmania's overseas-born population lived in Major urban areas, with 39% living in Other urban areas and 21% in Other rural areas. Although the Northern Territory does not include any Major urban areas, 69% of the overseas-born population lived in Darwin.

The proportion of the overseas-born population living in Major urban areas was relatively stable in most states between 1971 and 2001. The most notable change occurred in Queensland, where the proportion of the overseas-born population living in Major urban areas rose from 57% to 73%. This is associated with the growth since 1971 in the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Townsville caused by the movement of both overseas and Australian-born people to these areas. As a result the population of each of these cities now exceeds 100,000. There was little or no change in the level of urbanisation in New South Wales or Victoria. However, in Tasmania, there was a shift away from Major urban areas over the period.


PEOPLE LIVING IN MAJOR URBAN AREAS
Born overseas
Born in Australia
1971
2001
1971
2001
State or territory
%
%
%
%

NSW86.486.464.960.0
Vic.86.787.467.265.1
Qld56.573.243.156.7
SA82.280.164.865.2
WA70.075.359.459.1
Tas.41.934.432.326.8
NT(a). .. .. .. .
ACT98.399.697.699.3
Aust.80.581.960.459.9

(a) There are no Major urban areas in the Northern Territory.
Source: ABS 1971 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.


The overseas-born population tends to be concentrated in specific areas within major urban areas. In 2001, 33% of Sydney's population was born overseas, but this proportion was as high as 49% in Fairfield- Liverpool Statistical Subdivision (SSD) and 44% in Canterbury-Bankstown (SSD). In Melbourne, 54% of people living in Greater Dandenong City (SSD) and 38% in Western Melbourne (SSD) were born overseas, compared with 30% for the city as a whole.
(SEE ENDNOTE 2)


INTERNAL MIGRATION

Internal migration plays a major role in the redistribution of the Australian population. Both overseas and Australian-born people participate in ongoing migration flows around the country.

A general picture of the internal migration flows of the overseas-born population can be gained by examining the proportion of people living in capital cities who changed their place of residence between censuses. Between 1996 and 2001, 5.4% of people born overseas who had been living in a capital city moved out of their city of residence. Of these moves, over half (58%) were to a non-capital city area (for example moving from Sydney to the New South Wales North Coast). The Australian-born population were both more mobile and more likely to move away from capital city living, with 9% of people leaving their capital city of residence, and 67% of these moving to a non-capital city area.

PEOPLE WHO MOVED FROM A CAPITAL CITY AREA - 1996-2001

Born overseas
Born in Australia
Moved to another capital city
Moved to a non-capital city area
Total
Moved to another capital city
Moved to a non-capital city area
Total
Moved from
%
%
%
%
%
%

Sydney
1.8
2.8
4.6
2.4
5.9
8.3
Melbourne
1.6
2.2
3.8
1.9
4.4
6.3
Brisbane
3.2
5.4
8.6
2.9
7.7
10.6
Adelaide
3.1
3.4
6.6
3.4
5.2
8.7
Perth
2.2
3.6
5.9
2.8
6.4
9.1
Hobart
7.6
5.9
13.5
5.9
6.8
12.7
Darwin
13.4
8.8
22.2
15.1
15.0
30.1
Canberra
8.1
5.7
13.8
9.3
9.0
18.3
All capital cities
2.3
3.2
5.4
2.9
5.9
8.8

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


The mobility of people born overseas differed by capital city of residence. Relatively low proportions of the overseas-born population who were living in Sydney (4.6%) and Melbourne (3.8%) left these cities between 1996 and 2001. Despite this, migration outflows from Sydney and Melbourne still accounted for large numbers of people (45,600 and 30,500 respectively), because the total overseas-born population living in these cities is relatively high. While the proportions of the overseas-born population leaving smaller cities such as Hobart and Darwin were higher (14% and 22% respectively), the numbers of people involved were smaller (2,600 and 3,700 respectively).

RECENTLY ARRIVED MIGRANTS

The 2001 census showed that 16% of the overseas-born population were recent arrivals, having arrived in Australia between 1996 and 2001. Recent arrivals are even more highly urbanised than longer term migrants, with nine out of ten living in a Major urban area. Sydney and Melbourne are the main entry points for new migrants. These cities, and to a lesser extent Brisbane and Perth, are also more likely to offer social and economic benefits for new migrants such as established family and ethnic groups, and employment opportunities. They are also home to a substantial number of overseas-born students studying at Australian universities, who are generally recent arrivals. In 2001, 37% of recently arrived migrants and long term visitors lived in Sydney, with a further 22% in Melbourne and 10% each in Brisbane and Perth.



DISTRIBUTION OF THE OVER-SEAS BORN POPULATION - 2001
GRAPH - DISTRIBUTION OF THE OVER-SEAS BORN POPULATION - 2001


Migrants who have recently arrived in Australia tend to have higher mobility than people who are more established in their new country of residence. As migrants spend more time in a new country they obtain better information about potential residential locations, as well as finding employment and establishing social networks. Recent migrants therefore often change address soon after their arrival, as part of this settlement process.(SEE ENDNOTE 1)

The 2001 census revealed that recent arrivals were more likely to have moved from the city where they were living in August 2000 than were overseas-born people who had lived in Australia for longer. Of those who lived in a capital city in August 2000, 2.7% of people who arrived in Australia between 1996 and 2000 had moved out of their city of residence compared with 1.6% of migrants who had arrived before 1996. However, moves out of Sydney and Melbourne by recent arrivals were less common (both 2%, or 3,700 and 2,200 people respectively). In particular, very few people moved from Sydney and Melbourne into the non-capital city areas of the same state (around 0.5% for both cities).

DISTRIBUTION BY AGE

In general, younger people born overseas were more urbanised than their older counterparts. Of people born overseas aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years, 90% and 87% respectively lived in Major urban areas. In contrast, 77% of people born overseas aged 55-64 years lived in Major urban areas, with 13% in Other urban areas and 8% in Other rural areas.

One contributing factor in the concentration of younger overseas-born people in cities is the large proportion of university students. Overseas students staying in Australia for more than one year are included in census counts of the resident population. In 2001, 49% of the overseas-born population aged 18-24 years was attending a tertiary education institution, compared with 31% of the Australian-born population. The high level of urbanisation of younger people born overseas reflects the fact that, as a whole, recent arrivals are on average younger than the Australian-born population, with a median age of 28 years compared with 32 years.


AGE PROFILE OF THE OVERSEAS-BORN POPULATION BY SECTION OF STATE - 2001
GRAPH - AGE PROFILE OF THE OVERSEAS-BORN POPULATION BY SECTION OF STATE - 2001


DISTRIBUTION BY BIRTHPLACE

The geographic distribution of the overseas-born population differs by country of birth. Although they are still more urbanised than the Australian-born population, people from Anglophone countries were the most widely dispersed group of overseas-born people. This group includes people born in countries such as the United Kingdom, of whom 70% lived in Major urban areas and 19% in Other urban areas, Ireland (79% and 14% respectively) and New Zealand (75% and 16%). People born in the United Kingdom accounted for 41% of the total overseas-born population living in Other rural areas, with those born in New Zealand accounting for another 12%.

In contrast, people from Asian regions were among the most urbanised. Of people born in Viet Nam, 97% lived in Major urban areas, as did 96% of people born in China, 91% born in India and 85% born in the Philippines. People born in Asia accounted for 27% of the total overseas-born population living in Major urban areas.

As described previously, geographic distribution of the overseas-born population is related to time spent in Australia, with a higher proportion of recent arrivals living in major cities. Since large scale immigration from Asia began relatively recently, people born in Asia have had less time to disperse from the urban areas in which they generally live upon arriving in Australia. In addition, migrants from a non-English speaking background may have a greater attraction to existing 'birthplace communities', which can be found to a greater extent in Sydney and Melbourne than elsewhere.(SEE ENDNOTE 3)

ENDNOTES

1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2004, Trends in International Migration, Annual Report, 2003 Edition, OECD, Paris.
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004, Australia in Profile - A Regional Analysis, cat. no. 2032.0, ABS, Canberra.
3 Birrell, R and Rapson, V 2002, 'Two Australias: Migration Settlement at the End of the 20th Century', People and Place, vol. 10, no. 1, pp.10-25.

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