Sunday, November 15, 2009

migration in australia

Today we went to an american meetup group in the park. I ate so many Reese's Pieces I just about fell down.

But it all got me curious about the numbers behind migration in Australia. There's a news story about Sri Lankan asylum seekers who came over in a boat in April. Some of the tone of the coverage is anti-immigrant, i.e. that unwashed foreigners are overwhelming public services. There's a good program called Media Watch that did an interesting exposure on how some of the numbers floating around were confusing the total amount spent on all immigrants (a big number) and those that came on protective visas (a tiny number).

In 2008-2009 about 13 thousand asylum seekers arrived in Australia, coming in equal parts from Africa, Europe and Asia. This is compared with the 171 thousand skilled migrants and the 670 thousand temporary workers/students allowed to enter per year. From the government's website

"At the time of the 2006 Census, Australia's population was 19.9 million, with nearly one in four people [~5 million] living in Australia born overseas. Some 45 per cent of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. Of those born overseas, the United Kingdom is the largest overseas-born group (23.5 percent), followed by New Zealand (8.8 percent), China (excluding SARs and Taiwan Province) (4.7 percent) and Italy (4.5 percent)".

Note those last numbers are not country of origin but rather ethnicity, so you could only be considered american if you were Native American Indian.

Compared to other countries, there's a lot of migrants in Australia (24.6% of the total population). Of the 77 countries with more than 20 million residents in 2000, only Saudi Arabia has a higher migrant-to-total population ratio (25.8%). Interestingly enough, Saudi Arabia and Australia have almost identical population size (~20 million). Truly, Australia is small; more people live in North Korea or Nepal.

In terms of proportion, Canada is pretty high (18.9%) and America is up there (12.4%) although America's size means that the actual number of migrants (35 million) is far and away more than anyone else, practically three times the nearest competitor (Russia).

Germany has 9% migrants, the UK has 6.8%, Japan has 1.3%, and India has 0.6%. Again for countries with more than 20 million population, at 0.04% China is only beat out by Viet Nam (0.027%) for the lowest percent of migrants.

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