Australia’s overseas-born population highest since 1893

Australia’s overseas-born population has exceeded 30% for the first time since 1893, following a record influx of migrants in the year leading up to June 2023. This milestone marks a significant rebound from the plateau caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, as border restrictions were lifted, allowing for increased migration.

According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, released on Wednesday, the country’s overseas-born population grew by nearly 500,000 people in the past year, bringing the total to 8.2 million out of 26.6 million people. This increase represents a 6% growth in the total number of residents born overseas, more than double the annual increase seen in the decade preceding the pandemic.

The Indian-born population experienced the most significant growth, with an increase of over 90,000 people, bringing the Indian diaspora in Australia to nearly 846,000 as of June 2023. This makes India the second-largest source of overseas-born residents in Australia, closing the gap with England, which remains the largest source with 962,000 residents. England had peaked a decade ago with more than 1 million residents.

China, the third-largest source of overseas-born residents, now has over 655,000 residents in Australia, after its numbers dropped during the pandemic to below 585,000 in 2021. The steadier growth in the Indian population, as opposed to China’s slower recovery, is indicative of the evolving diplomatic relations between Australia and these two countries.

Dr. Aude Bernard, from the Queensland Centre for Population Research, pointed out that the decline in Chinese immigration began with the Covid-19 pandemic but was exacerbated by growing geopolitical tensions. In contrast, the relationship between Australia and India has deepened, contributing to the steady increase in the Indian diaspora.

University of Melbourne associate professor Val Colic-Peisker noted that many Indians are coming to Australia in search of work, as India’s rapid population growth outpaces job opportunities for tertiary-educated individuals. Dr. Bernard referred to this migration trend as “recuperation migration,” suggesting that if not for the pandemic-induced border closures, the share of people born overseas might have reached similar levels by now.

Colic-Peisker added that Australia’s need for skilled workers in industries like construction and medicine is driving this resurgence in migration. She emphasized that Australia relies on labor imports to address skill shortages and that without such immigration, the country could face an immediate crisis.

Overall, this significant increase in the overseas-born population underscores Australia’s ongoing reliance on immigration to meet its labor demands and maintain economic stability.

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