Mapping social cohesion 2013 - recent arrivals report

24 Mar 2014

Recently arrived migrants arrivals report relatively high levels of discrimination, finds this survey on social cohesion in Australia.


The Recent Arrivals survey was conducted in 2013 as an extension to the Scanlon Foundation Social Cohesion Research Program, with additional funding from the Australian Government to increase sample size.

The objective of the survey is to further understanding of the current immigration program, particularly the attitudes and outlook of skilled and highly educated entrants. It considers both the experiences in Australia and the nature of ongoing contacts with former home countries.

The survey was completed by 2,324 respondents, two thirds of whom arrived between 2000 and 2010. The sample best represents the highly educated segment of the immigrant population, in keeping with the survey objective to further understanding of recent immigrant intakes that are characterised by an increasing proportion of skilled and highly educated entrants. The sample also includes significant numbers of those who gained entry under the family migration program (20%), those who have no post-school qualifications (13%), and those who do not have permanent residence (9%).

Views of life in Australia

A key and consistent finding is the high level of satisfaction of the recent arrivals: with regard to present financial circumstances, 43% are satisfied, another 25% ‘neither satisfied nor dissatisfied’, a combined 69%; 70% agree with the proposition that in Australia ‘in the long run, hard work brings a better life’, while another 17% ‘neither agree nor disagree’.

When asked for their views on life in Australia, 81% indicate that they are satisfied; 64% indicate that they are ‘very happy’ or ‘happy’, a further 24% that they are ‘neither happy nor unhappy’, a combined 88%.

Only a small minority indicate dissatisfaction, matching or below the level of dissatisfaction obtained by the 2013 Scanlon Foundation national survey, which provides the basis for contextualising the Recent Arrivals survey: 10% of recent arrivals indicate that they are ‘struggling to pay bills’ or are ‘poor’; 8% are ‘very dissatisfied’ with their present financial circumstances; 11% disagree with the proposition that in Australia hard work brings a better life; and just 5% indicate that they are dissatisfied with life in Australia.

There are, however, other indicators which point to differences between recent arrivals and the Australian population.

Personal trust is considerably lower: 31% of recent arrivals agreed that most people ‘can be trusted’, 45% in the national survey.

Trust in institutions is lower, and in a finding that is contrary to the general pattern of increasing approximation to the Australian average with increased length of residence, trust in several institutions is lower amongst immigrants who arrived in the 1990s than those who arrived more recently: the lower levels of trust are indicated for the legal system, Centrelink, the Department of Immigration, employers, and federal parliament.

Recently arrived immigrants do not find Australian people to be caring, friendly, or hospitable, a finding in contrast with those of earlier surveys. Recent arrivals report relatively high levels of discrimination on the basis of their ‘skin colour, ethnic origin or religion over the last 12 months’. This is the reported experience of 41% of non-English speaking background immigrants who arrived between 2000-10, compared to the national average of 16%.

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