The changing shape of Australia’s overseas-born population

Press release Published on 12 June 2017

Population & Societies n° 545, June 2017

Authors: Tom Wilson and James Raymer

Immigration to Australia was dominated by migrants from the UK or continental Europe for almost two centuries. However, in the late twentieth century, as shown by Tom Wilson and James Raymer, the composition of the overseas-born population began to change dramatically.

Immigration has long played a prominent role in shaping Australia’s demography, economy and culture. At the end of the Second World War the overseas-born population stood at 0.75 million, or 10% of the population. By 2016 it had increased to a record 6.9 million, or 28%. The geographical origins of those migrating to Australia have also changed radically. Until the late 1970s, most of the immigrant population had been born in Europe, but since that time, there has been a dramatic shift away from immigration of European origin and towards Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas.

The overseas-born population has also grown older, and its structure is changing with successive inflows and outflows; many immigrants eventually return home or move elsewhere. Since the 1990s, the proportion of temporary migrants (students, business visa holders, and working holidaymakers) has increased.


Released on: 14/06/2017