Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Country of Nations

What is a post on Australian Immigration doing on a blog on MBA in Australia. I guess quite a lot. Do go on to read the entire post to understand better.

During one of my searches today on Google, I found an article about the success of immigration reforms in Australia. The article is dated Oct 2003 but is still worth a good look. This led to do a "scraping survey"* of the immigration policy in Australia.

*A scraping survey is 'not' a detailed survey. It is a 10-15 min look at articles/documents found from Google searches.

An article by Venessa Walker in "The Australian" on the history of immigration in Australia appeared on Jan 26th 2002. The title of the article "A Country of Nations". Quite clearly she was mentioning the diversity of the population of Australia.

She writes :

THEY were six migrants – from Spain, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Greece and France – smiling at the camera on the steps of Canberra's Kurrajong Hotel.

Dressed in their finest threads, they had been brought together, each from a different state, to celebrate Australia's first citizenship ceremony on February 3, 1949.

More pointedly, the government had selected the photo subjects by their European nationalities, in a bid to represent what they perceived as the ``unified, all inclusive'' migration future that Australia aspired to, or – in the view of the day – had been reduced to.

Between the ``all inclusive'' photo of Europeans celebrating their Australian citizenship in 1949 and the present lie 53 years of migration, each journey undertaken with dreams of a safer, brighter and more prosperous future.

Those years have seen Australia open its arms wider than it could ever have anticipated, with the number of nationalities taking citizenship (excluding the fragmentation of some countries) burgeoning from 53 to more than 200 last year.

Today, as Australia marks its 54th year of citizenship ceremonies, more than 7735 people will pledge their allegiance, joining a country which has accepted 10 million people – the fourth largest migrant intake in the world – since the First Fleet sailed into Sydney in 1788 to a place long inhabited by Aborigines.


Top 15 nationalities 1901 Foreign-born people living in Australia

British [incl Irish] _______879,168
German _______________38,362
Chinese _______________29,807
New Zealand ___________26,788
Norwegian _____________8883
Indian _________________7837
USA __________________7448
Danish _________________6287
Italian _________________5678
French _________________3692
Japanese _______________3583
Russian ________________3368
Canadian _______________3150
Swiss __________________2038
Austrian ________________1802

2001 Nationalities who pledged citizenship

British _________________12,474
New Zealand ____________11,007
Chinese ________________6890
South African ___________2992
Bosnian ________________2661
Indian __________________2335
Filipino _________________2211
Vietnamese ______________1953
Iraqi ____________________1862
Sri Lankan _______________1672
Fijian ___________________1398
Yugoslav ________________1175
Malaysian _______________1057
USA ___________________1004
Korean _________________966

As we can see from the above figures Australia has widened its immigration policy a lot and the mix of the population has changed from a European centric immigrants to a Asian bent.

Immigration policy has always been a major issue in Australia. Different lobbies have argued over the last century for and against immigration. Bob Birrel, director of the Center for Population and Urban Research at Monash University in Melbourne, has written a economic paper titled "Immigration policy and the Australian labour market".

Bobs' main contention is that the immigration policy of Australia has always been linked to the labour market outcomes of migrants. He does acknowledge that a various other factors are affect the immigration policy, however he maintains that a large part of the policy is influenced by the labour market potential of migrants.

There was an earlier era, stretching from post-world war two to the late 1 960s when economic debate also had little impact on immigration policy. During this period, immigration was largely about nation building. The main objective was population growth in the interests of national defence. While this concern faded by the 1960s, another aspect of the population building process came into focus. This was the role of migrants in helping Australia to build a self-sufficient industrial economy through their contribution to expanding the domestic market base and the industrial workforce. Governments at this time paid little heed to economists' concerns about the resource allocation inefficiencies flowing from the associated protectionist policies.

This situation changed in the 1970s in the face of challenges to 1960s protectionism. Immigration lost much of its previous rationale when successive governments supported structural change which favoured industries capable of competing in the international marketplace.

The 1970s and particularly the 1980s were the great era of inquiry into the economics of immigration. One of the reasons was that for the first time since the war immigration became controversial. There was no clear rationale for its continuation at the very high levels of the late 1960s when the settler intake reached around 180,000 per year. Major interest groups (including Australia's manufacturers and builders) still had a strong pecuniary interest in continued high migration. So too did the State governments, whose growth objectives had long been regarded as linked with the impetus migration had given industry and building within their states. But they needed a new justification for continued high intakes. the late 1980s the Hawke government decided to expand the immigration intake such that the program size. The major impetus came from the government's embrace of the 'clever country' theme. The connection with immigration policy was that if Australia was to sell value added goods and services (rather than commodities) into the booming Asian region, it needed to boost its intellectual resources.

As John Menadue when secretary for the Department of Immigration (he was later to become secretary to the Department of Trade in the Hawke government) put it;

The achievements of countries like Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore are based upon the will and dynamism of their societies. They have grasped their limited opportunities and made the most of them. This is where immigration can play a role for us. A bold immigration program is the only tool readily at hand to challenge our complacency, smugness and parochialism. That is where we must look to future development of this country and effective use of its resources (as cited in Birrell and Birrell, 1987, p. 287).

Australia was attracting large numbers of Asian professionals, just as Garnaut had recommended. Some came through the Independent program, many others as family members (mainly as brothers and sisters and spouses). By far the single largest occupational group were engineers. Since the number of persons in Australia employed as professional engineers actually fell slightly between 1986 and 1991 (to 82,047) it is not surprising that many recent arrivals struggled to find openings. Only 3,332 of these 15,226 engineers were employed as professional engineers by 1991. Others struggled because of English language difficulties. Though English was part of the test, it was self-assessed by the candidate. Applicants simply ticked a box on the application form indicating how well they spoke English.

...the CAAIP report...recommended a high intake, but with a sharper emphasis on skills relevant to Australian needs. Its main recommendation, implemented from mid-1999, was that one of the conditions for skilled selection was that applicants had to gain recognition of their qualifications from the relevant Australian authority in their field.

Academic arguments about the alleged long term benefits (or costs) of immigration induced population growth, such as those associated with economies of scale or which might flow from an exogenous (immigrant) stimulus to the Australian economy, barely figured in the reform process just described between 1990 and Labor's loss of office in 1996. With unemployment high during this period it was very difficult to justify migration unless it could be shown to provide immediate benefits. Skilled migration was defensible if it could be shown that those arriving were quickly employed and especially if their employment was in areas where there were skilled 'bottlenecks'.

Several major reforms...implemented from mid-1999..[like] all applicants (not just those formerly listed under the ORE) under the Independent and Skilled-Australian Sponsored categories had to posses 'Vocational English' as a minimum requirement. For the first time a list of occupations eligible for migration was prepared.

A further major reform involved the classification of eligible occupations into 60, 50 and 40 point categories. Previously, professional and trade occupations had all been given the same points. The 60 point category was confined to a narrow range of occupations where the educational or training component of the occupation was regarded as the essential determinant of employment in the field and where employment was usually not possible unless the person's qualifications were first approved by the relevant accreclitmg authority These occupations included nurses, teachers, s, IT professionals, engineers, accountants and most trades (but not economists). The 50 point category covered professional and managerial occupations where the relevant educational qualifications were not central to employment in the occupation. They included various business professional positions such as in sales or management where other attributes (like experience in the field) were usually more important than educational credentials. T he 40 point category covered associate-professional positions like financial market dealers.

According to the Australian Population Institute, the business lobby group behind last year's 'population summit' in Melbourne, a higher population will give Australia;

* The economic strength to undertake greater research and development

* The capacity to increase value-adding in all our industries and services

* The ability to compete better in export marketing

* Greater economic activity, tax base and GDP to support our overall economy (Australian Population Institute, 2002)

The Government's aim of targeting highly educated migrants has been largely successful. However this is an unfinished story. Such has been the demand for entry under the new selection system that further reforms will be required. This growth has been largely driven by rapid expansion in the numbers of overseas students in Australia who, on completion of their courses, have then applied for permanent residence. The increase in overseas student enrolments, in turn, has been stimulated by the improved opportunities for gaining permanent residence.

This growth in demand has been such that in May 2002 DIMIA increased the pass mark for the Independent category (though not the smaller Skilled-Australian Sponsored category) by five points to 115. The consequence will be to further concentrate selection on those with 60 point occupations. Very few of the thousands of prospective applicants amongst overseas students presently studying in Australia in fields like marketing and management (which are classified as 50 point occupations) will be successful in gaining permanent residence.

The recent growth in immigration to Australia has been for the 60 point occupation lists and the 50 point occupation list. Those in the 50 point list would not be able to furnish the required points for gaining permanent residence. This could be solved by a gaining extra points for a 2 year education in Australia. This became the cornerstone for the rapid increase in overseas students to Australia. The educational insitutions realised that if they could market better "international students" would become one of the major sources of income.

Now coming to the article on immigration reforms.

THE relaxation of immigration regulations for foreign students has led to rapid increases in enrolments in some courses, research conducted for IDP Education Australia has revealed.

Changes since 1998 that gave immigration priority to overseas students who had completed their education or training in Australia were a leading inducement for students from Asia to study and live in Australia.

Growing prosperity, which allowed more families to send their children overseas, was also a factor, Monash University demographer Bob Birrell said at the IDP Australian International Education conference in Sydney last week.

According to Australian Education International, overseas student enrolments in Australia increased by 15 per cent a year from 1997 to 2003. China and India were Australia's most promising markets because of rapid economic growth. There were 16,311 Chinese students in 2002 and 22,374 in 2003, a 37 per cent increase. Numbers of Indian students in the same period rose from 8884 to 12,340, an increase of 38.9 per cent.

Dr Birrell's research also showed that students from poorer countries, where professional wages were low, were more likely to apply for permanent residency in Australia.

China and India also led this field. Students from richer Asian nations, such as Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand, were less likely to apply.

"Between mid-2001 and January 2004, of 23,000 who got an immigration outcome who applied onshore, 23 per cent were from India, 20 per cent were from China and 14 per cent were from Indonesia," Dr Birrell said.

The immigration reforms were prompted by labour shortages in accounting and information technology in the 1990s. Amendments included awarding credit points for completing studies in Australia, dropping occupational experience requirements and waiving the condition that hopefuls must go offshore to apply for residency.

"After these reforms, for an investment of $30,000 or $40,000 in fees and expenses, an immigration outcome would seem to be assured," Dr Birrell said.

Successful on-shore visa applications had soared from 5480 in 2001-02 to an estimated 12,000 for 2003-04.

"This supports the explanation that growth in those countries [India and China] would be linked to the growing possibility of an immigration outcome," Dr Birrell said.

Before I sign off, a look at the Indian community migration to Australia.

The India-born Community

Historical background

Indians were brought to Australia between 1800 and 1860 initially to work as labourers and domestics. Between the years 1860 and 1901 more Indians arrived and worked as agricultural labourers and as hawkers in country towns. A number of Indians also worked in the gold fields.

The Indians were mainly Sikhs and Muslims from the Punjab region in northwest India and the majority settled in Woolgoolga in New South Wales. Today, the Sikh settlement in Woolgoolga is one of the largest Indian rural communities in Australia.

Migration from India was curtailed after the Australian Government introduced the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. Following India’s Independence from Britain in 1947, the number of Anglo-Indians and India-born British citizens immigrating to Australia increased.

In 1966, the Australian Government changed its policies to permit non-European Indians to emigrate to Australia. By 1981, the India-born population numbered 41,657 and the new arrivals included many professionals, such as doctors, teachers, computer programmers and engineers. Unlike the earlier settlers, those arriving after the 1950s came from many parts of India and belonged to various religious linguistic and cultural groups.

While the majority of Indians are Hindus, some are followers of other religious faiths, such as Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

The community today

Geographic distribution

The latest Census in 2001 recorded 95,460 India-born persons in Australia, an increase of 23 per cent from the 1996 Census. The 2001 distribution by State and Territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 37,930 followed by Victoria (30,690), Western Australia (13,120) and Queensland (7,190).


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