Australia's migration trends 2011–12

3 Jun 2013

This publication provides information on the characteristics of Australia's population, the composition of Australia's immigration programs, the economics of migration and the movement of people into and out of Australia.

In 2011–12, Australia’s combined migration and humanitarian programs totalled 198 757, an increase of 8.9 per cent on the 2010–11 figure (182 452). Of this, 93.1 per cent came under the Migration Program (184 998)—68.0 per cent through the Skill Stream (125 755), 31.7 per cent through the Family Stream (58 604) and 0.3 per cent under Special Eligibility (639)—and 6.9 per cent through the Humanitarian Program (13 759).

For the first time India was the main source of new permanent migrants to Australia, accounting for 15.7 per cent of the 2011–12 Migration Program, up from 12.9 per cent on the previous year. It also reflected the trend towards an Asian Century with India and the People’s Republic of China the two main source countries for permanent migrants through the Migration Program. Also reflecting the emergence of an Asian Century is that seven of the top 10 source countries in 2011–12 were located in the Asia region. In addition to this regulated migration, 44 304 New Zealand permanent settlers came under the Trans-Tasman Travel arrangement, 28.2 per cent more than in 2010–11.

For 2012–13, the overall size of the migration and humanitarian programs is set at 210 000 places, comprising 129 250 Skill Stream, 60 185 Family Stream, 565 Special Eligibility and 20 000 Humanitarian places.

After experiencing a mild downturn during the global financial crisis of 2008–09, the Australian economy continued its quick recovery into 2011–12. Yet rising global demand for commodities has led to regional skilled labour shortages in Australia. Business (Long Stay) visa grants grew by 38.8 per cent, and all top 10 source countries experienced increases in 2011–12 compared to the previous year. The Working Holiday Maker Program grew by 15.6 per cent to 222 992 grants, the highest number on record. An ongoing Seasonal Worker Program was established from 1 July 2012, building on the benefits of the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme which concluded in June 2012. The new program will make 12 000 visa places available over the next four years for seasonal workers in certain Pacific island countries to work in low-skilled jobs for up to seven months in a 12-month period.

In 2011–12, inflows of international students increased by 1.0 per cent to 253 047 visa grants, the first rise since the peak in 2008–09. The decreases in Student visa numbers in 2009–10 and 2010–11 followed 11 consecutive years of growth in the visa program. Greater focus on integrity for applications from selected countries, increased financial requirements, global economic uncertainty, reforms to the Skilled Migration Program and the appreciation of the Australian dollar contributed to this decline. Implementation of the recommendations from the Knight Review of Australia’s Student visa program started in November 2011. Since then more than half of the review’s 41 recommendations have been implemented including streamlined visa processing for eligible prospective university students, more flexible work conditions and a genuine temporary entry requirement.

In 2011–12, there were 7379 refugee status determination requests for asylum seekers who arrived to Australia by boat, a rise of 42.6 per cent on the previous year. Since 2006–07, this figure has grown substantially from only 23 requests to an average of 5715 requests in the last three years. In June 2012, the Australian Government announced the appointment of an expert panel to provide a report with advice and recommendations to prevent asylum seekers from risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia. The report was released in August 2012 and the Government agreed to all recommendations in principle. The implementation of these recommendations was immediate, including the increase of Australia’s 2012–13 Humanitarian Program to 20 000 places, a rise of 45.5 per cent on the previous year.

Since September 2005, Net Overseas Migration (NOM) has overtaken natural increase as the main component of Australia’s population growth. For the year March 2011 to March 2012, NOM added 197 200 people to Australia’s population, or 59.5 per cent of growth, an increase of 18.2 per cent from the same period the previous year. There is an overall trend in Australia for increased workforce participation among Australia-born and migrants. Recent migrants were the main contributing factor to the rising participation rate of migrants overall. At the 12-month stage of settlement, the unemployment rate for recent skilled migrants was 2 per cent, substantially lower than the national rate of 5 per cent. Three-quarters of these migrants were in skilled work and more than eight in ten were in full-time employment.

In December 2011, the Australian Government announced it would legislate to reform the employer sanctions regime for businesses that allow or refer for work, non-citizens without the required lawful entitlement. The new laws are one component of a broader reformed employer sanctions framework, focused on preventing and deterring illegal work hire practices. The online skilled migration selection register, SkillSelect, was introduced in July 2012. SkillSelect is a major change to how Australia manages its Skilled Migration program, designed to give the Australian Government greater control over the composition and quality of skilled migration. In conjunction with SkillSelect reforms, the number of skilled migration visas was reduced from 27 to 11. The first Enterprise Migration Agreement—a temporary migration initiative to help address the skill needs of the resources sector—was also agreed to in principle in May 2012. This agreement will allow for the sponsorship of up to 1715 workers in an iron ore project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

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