Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Statistics indicate that around one quarter of the Australian population were born overseas and almost half (around 40%) have at least one parent born overseas. This is the broad context that frames the importance of comprehending the scale and nature of the social costs and benefits of migration into Australia. Using the four capitals framework for measuring Australia’s progress, this study has synthesised a vast amount of evidence relevant to the topic. It has consolidated material from 49 different data sets and a large volume of existing although disparate research. Furthermore, original empirical material has been gathered through four community studies, two in regional Australia and two in metropolitan cities on the East Coast of the continent.
The main conclusion to be drawn from this study is that the social benefits of migration far outweigh the costs, especially in the longer term. The evidence that is available overwhelmingly supports the view that migrants to Australia have made and continue to make substantial contributions to Australia’s stock of human, social and produced capital.
Most migrants have come to Australia to work, produce, and fill skills shortages. In addition, migrants are generally healthier than the resident population providing a further boost to human capital stocks. The migrant presence has also substantially increased the range and viability of available recreational and cultural activities for all Australians. Australia is characterised by relatively high levels of inter-marriage between migrants and the Australia-born, and this fact alone is evidence of the success of migration outcomes. These factors encourage most migrants to embrace Australian society, its political and cultural norms and to participate in various aspects of community life.