Research report

Australia's migration program

8 Oct 2010

Australia's Migration Program has steadily evolved since 1945 when the first federal immigration portfolio was created.  The change in focus from increasing the population to meeting the labour needs of the economy is examined in this Background Note.

As part of its planned Migration Program, the federal government allocates places each year for people wanting to migrate permanently to Australia. The 2010–11 Migration Program, announced on 11 May 2010, allocates a total of 168 700 places, made up of 113 850 places in the skill stream, 54 550 places in the family stream and 300 special eligibility places.

Australia’s immigration policies have evolved from focussing on attracting migrants for the purpose of increasing Australia’s population to attracting workers and temporary (skilled) migrants in order to meet the needs of the economy. This Background Note examines Australia’s Migration Program patterns since 1945, including shifts in numbers and focus, and outlines  recent changes made specifically to address labour market concerns.

Appendix A provides a chronology of changes to the Migration Program made by the Rudd Labor Government. Migration Program statistics from 1984–85 through to 2010–11 are provided at Appendix B.

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