Voters think overseas immigration to Australia is too high, poll shows

by Ray Clancy on May 25, 2016

in Australia Immigration

More than half of voters believe immigration to Australia over the past 10 years has been too high, according to a new poll.

The Essential poll, commissioned by television station SBS, found 59% of people born in Australia think immigration is too high and 60% of those born overseas also thought the level of immigration had been excessive over the past decade.

However, almost two thirds believe migrants have overall made a positive contribution to Australian society and 62% think cultural diversity has enriched the lives of Australians.


Just 28% thought that Australia should increase its intake of refugees due to the crisis in Europe and 38% believe accepting refugees is something a wealthy nation like Australia should do.

The poll is published at a time when official data shows that the proportion of Australians who were born overseas has hit its highest point in over 120 years, with 28% of Australia’s population born overseas, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

“Australia has traditionally had a high proportion of migrants, but we’ve now hit a peak not seen since the late 1800s”, said Beidar Cho from the ABS, adding that the percentage of Australian residents born overseas has increased every year for the last 15 years.

Data also shows that the number of Australian residents born in India has almost tripled over the last 10 years and residents born in China have more than doubled in this time.

The change in our migrant mix can best be observed in the differences in median age of certain groups. Migrants born in Italy, for example, had a median age of 64.7 years in 2005. This increased to 69.3 years in 2015, indicating a drop in recent migration and the aging of existing migrants.

On the other hand, migrants from Asian neighbours, such as India, have seen a reduction in median age from 37 years in 2005 to 33.4 years in 2015.

A breakdown of the figures show that Western Australia recorded the highest proportion of overseas born residents in their population at 33.4% or 786,500 persons, and also the largest increase in the proportion of overseas born residents, up from 29.9% in 2006.

Victoria recorded the second highest proportion with 28.7% of its residents born overseas at 1,589,800 persons, up from 26.3% in 2006. Tasmania with 12.6% or 64,200 persons and the Northern Territory with 18.8% or 43,600 persons, had the lowest proportion of overseas born, both well below the Australian level of 26.9% recorded in 2011.

In 2011, Western Australia had the highest proportion of people born in the United Kingdom at 10.9%, more than double the Australian proportion of 5.4%. The highest proportion of New Zealand born residents was in Queensland at 4.8%.

In Victoria, there were higher proportions of residents born in India at 2.3%, Italy at 1.5%, Vietnam at 1.4%, Greece at 1.1% and Sri Lanka at 0.9% than any other state or territory. New South Wales had the highest proportion of people born in China at 2.6% and Lebanon at 0.9%.

The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of people born in the Philippines at 1.9%, while Western Australia recorded the highest proportion of people born in South Africa at 1.7% and Malaysia at 1.2%. The proportion of residents born in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States of America were fairly evenly spread across all states and territories.

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