Immigration: We can choose our skills, but we can't choose our family

Parliament house flag post

Immigration: We can choose our skills, but we can't choose our family

Posted 13/11/2013 by Gareth Larsen

Whilst boat arrivals, asylum seekers, skilled permanent and temporary programs and even students have kept immigration featured in our politics and newspapers, family migration receives little share of public debate. This is intriguing as family migration is a bigger part of permanent migration than official planning levels would lead us to believe.

Migration Program planning levels fluctuate according to the political, social and economic imperatives of the government of the day. In the mid-1970s, the planned annual intake reached a low of 50,000 places and gradually climbed to the 1988 peak of 145,000 and then reduced to 80,000 by 1993.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the Migration Program's intrinsic tie to economic growth under the Howard Government saw a steady and sustained increase in the planned migration intake and proportionally more places allocated in the Skill Stream. Between 1995-96 and 2013-14, the composition of the program shifted from around 70 per cent family to around 32 per cent  (Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Australian Bureau of Statistics figures). Taken on face value, skilled places now account for around two-thirds of the Migration Program (128,550 places in the Skill Stream) whilst the Family Stream accounts for just 60,885 places (see Figure 2).

Figure 1 – Historic Migration Program planning levels, number of program places available by year and Stream (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP and ABS statistics).
Figure 1 – Historic Migration Program planning levels, number of program places available by year and Stream (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP and ABS statistics).
Figure 2 – Skilled and family as a proportion of the Migration Program (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP and ABS statistics).
Figure 2 – Skilled and family as a proportion of the Migration Program (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP and ABS statistics).
At the October 2013 Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) conference, the incoming Government announced that the Skill Stream of the Migration Program would not fall below two-thirds of the total Migration Program—around its current level. This commitment echoes an economically-focussed approach.

However, there may be more to consider when looking at family as a component of the Migration Program. Whilst 128,550 places are available in the Skill Stream, the first skilled migrant to occupy a place may also bring a partner or other dependents who all occupy a place in the Skill Stream. The reality is that the family of skilled migrants, or as they are better known 'secondary visa holders' occupy over 50 per cent of the Skill Stream. In the following analysis, these are referred to as ‘informal’ family places as they sit outside of the official Family Stream and actually reduce the number of skilled places available in the Skill Stream.

Figures 3 and 4 illustrate skilled, family and ‘informal’ family numbers and proportions, and on this basis, it may be interpreted that family accounts for the largest share of the Migration Program.

Figure 3 – Skilled, family and ‘informal’ family as components of the Migration Program  (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP statistics - only secondary data from 2002-03 to 2011-12 available).

Figure 3 – Skilled, family and ‘informal’ family as components of the Migration Program  (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP statistics - only secondary data from 2002-03 to 2011-12 available).

Figure 4 – Skilled, family and ‘informal’ family as a proportion of the Migration Program  (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP statistics - only secondary data from 2002-03 to 2011-12 available).
Figure 4 – Skilled, family and ‘informal’ family as a proportion of the Migration Program  (Parliamentary Library analysis using DIBP statistics - only secondary data from 2002-03 to 2011-12 available).
As we prepare to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family, what is the role of family in our economy and society? The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) identifies that the family unit can provide individuals with security: financial, emotional and physical, and migrants’ families can also provide context for culture and traditions.
In an economic context, Parent migration is perceived to be a net cost to the Commonwealth Budget, however, Partners and other family (in the Family Program) appear to have a net positive fiscal contribution given their solid labour market outcomes (DIAC 2011) and strong gains are recorded across the Skill Stream, presumably across both across primary and secondary visa holders (Access Economics, 2008). 
DIBP identifies that labour market outcomes may be optimised in the short-term by influencing the type of skilled migrant or by favouring more partner/spouse places within the Family Stream. Whilst these are important considerations in Migration Program planning, the following points are highlighted from this analysis: 
  • Migration program planners only control for the formal Family Stream of the Migration Program. The 'informal' family occupying part of the Skill Stream is at present not controlled.
  • Over half of the Skill Stream places are occupied by accompanying family members.
  • Only one-third of the entire Migration Program formally addresses Australia's skill needs.
With skills again the focus, family remains an important part of the picture.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment Sport illicit drugs people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget health financing gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA emissions trading Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations people smuggling dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing money laundering Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights citizenship Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals

Show all
Show less
Back to top