Latest Census shows growth in Asian incomers to Australia

by Ray Clancy on June 25, 2012

in Australia Immigration

Mandarin is now the second most popular language spoken at home

Australia’s population is changing due to the country’s resources boom which is attracting more Asians, figures from the just published 2011 Census show.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the resource-rich regions of Western Australia and Queensland both recorded double digit population growth over the past five years, more than double that of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, and sharply outstripping the national average of 8.3%.

Asians accounted for the biggest jump in immigration to Australia in terms of ethnicity, with Indian and Chinese the fastest growing groups. As a result Mandarin has now overtaken Italian as the second most popular language spoken at home, after English.

The Census showed that around one in four of the 21.5 million people surveyed in the census last year were born outside Australia, compared with 22% a decade ago. Of those, a third were born in Asia, a sharp increase from 24% in 2006.

Meanwhile, the proportion of European migrants has fallen from more than half of arrivals a decade ago to 40% last year. The UK remains the leading country of origin for Australia’s overseas born population at 21%, including more than a quarter of long standing migrants.

But employers in the resources industry are still struggling to attract enough skilled workers. Some nine of the 10 largest population increases in local government areas were in Western Australia, the country’s mining heartland. The largest increase was in the area of East Pilbara, where mining giants such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals are investing billions of dollars to build up iron ore mining operations. The population there jumped 83% between 2006 and 2011 to 11,950 people, the census shows.

The shift in population to Western Australia is probably greater in reality as the statistics don’t include the controversial fly in, fly out workers who are brought in for brief periods rather than permanently relocated by mining companies to build and operate their mines in isolated areas.

Rising population growth in some areas has put growing pressure on housing, driving a sharp rise in rents relative to average incomes. The overall national median weekly income rose 24% to A$577 in 2011, up from A$466 in 2006, while the median household weekly rent rose by almost half to A$285 from A$191, the data also shows.

In Western Australia the trend was even more pronounced as weekly rent in the state surged by more than three quarters to A$300 a week and A$320 in its capital, Perth, while weekly incomes in the state rose around a third to A$662.

The largest decreases in migrant populations were among Greeks and Italians, which fell by 33,300 and 16,500 respectively, as low migration levels failed to replenish existing communities, many of whom originally arrived following the devastation wreaked across Europe in World War II.

Australia’s annual population growth rate was 1.4% for the year ending 31 December 2011, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Over the same period, Australia’s population increased by 302,600 people to 22.5 million (22,485,300) people. Net overseas migration accounted for 55% of the growth for the year ending December 2011, with the remaining 45% due to natural increase (births minus deaths).

Net overseas migration increased to the end of December 2011. The preliminary net overseas migration estimate for the year ending December 2011 (184,000 people) was 9% (or 15,100) higher than that for December 2010 (168,800 people).

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