This seventh report in the BCEC’s Focus on the States series explores the profile and evolution of immigration in Australia over recent years, and undertakes a comprehensive assessment of immigrants’ contributions to Australia’s social and economic development. The report also sheds light on the wellbeing of immigrants and their ability to take a meaningful and valued role in Australian society.

With increasing immigration, there is also increased interest and relevance to understand its impact on Australia’s labour market. We observe increase in immigrant density across most industries and occupations. The concern that immigrants may adversely affect the employment and wage situation of native-born workers continues to dominate the public debate. Our results dispel such concerns. They highlight that the rise in immigration is in fact associated with rising wages for native-borns.

Migrants have, on average, more accumulated years of education than the Australian born population. But are their skills well-utilised? This report shows that only 60 per cent of migrants from a non English-speaking background are working in wellmatched jobs. Moreover, not only are the migrants from non English-speaking background more likely to be over-educated for their jobs, they also incur the greatest wage penalty associated with this mismatch. We estimate that achieving a perfect match between the educational qualifications of these migrants and the jobs they hold could deliver a potential gain to the economy of up to 6 billion dollars per annum.

Our report finds that Australia has some way to go to become a truly multicultural society. We find that a significant share of native-born Australians – particularly those in the older age cohorts – have unfavourable attitudes towards certain groups, such as asylum seekers, Muslim Australians and African Australians. We provide empirical evidence to bear on the extent to which knowledge and exposure to such minority groups can mitigate the bias against them. The greater the knowledge and exposure, the fewer the negative attitudes and stereotypes.

The majority of immigrants in Australia take pride in this country, speak the language and identify with the values and norms of the majority. At the same time, preserving their primary cultural identity is important for the social wellbeing of immigrants. The report shows that complete assimilation may come at a cost of social wellbeing although it may enhance the economic status of immigrants. Yet, 70 per cent of native-born Australians oppose government assistance for ethnic minorities to preserve their traditions.

Are we doing enough in meeting the needs of the worlds’ displaced populations? Not nearly as much as many other developed and developing countries do. Our comprehensive assessment based on newly released data on Australia’s humanitarian migrants suggests, however, that those who are in this country are settling in well and can even see their socio-economic outcomes improve over the years. The report highlights the role of education and training in Australia for the chance to find a job at a similar skill level to which humanitarian migrants were holding in their home country.

Publication Details
Focus on the States Series, No. 7/19
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