Regional Development Through Immigration? The Reality behind the Rhetoric


Research Paper 9 1999-2000

Graeme Hugo
Consultant
Social Policy Group
30 November 1999

Contents

Major Issues
Introduction
Changing Patterns of Australian Population Distribution

Urban/Rural
State/Territory Comparisons

Geographical Distribution of Immigrants

Distribution Between the States and Territories
Ethnic Mix
Urban-Rural Distribution of Immigrants
Sydney/Melbourne
Sydney/Melbourne Ethnic Mix

Policies to Influence the Australian Population Distribution

Ethnic Concentration
Regional Migration
Early Regional Migration Programs
Recent Policies and Programmes to Influence Where Migrants Settle
Commonwealth/State Mechanisms
Current Schemes
Effectiveness of Current Schemes/South Australia as a Case Study
Government Involvement in Migrant Settlement in North America
Policy Instruments Available to Governments to Influence Settlement
An Alternative Approach

Some Considerations for the Future

Population Distribution and Centralisation: USA and Australia Compared
The Future

Conclusion
Endnotes
Bibliography

List of Tables

Table 1: Australia: Population Growth by Section of State, 1976-96
Table 2: Australia: Population of States and Territories, 1976-1996
Table 3: Australia: Concentration of Overseas-Born People, 1996
Table 4: Australia: Distribution of Australia and Overseas-Born Population Between Major Urban, Other Urban and Rural Areas, 1947-96
Table 5: Australia: Number and Percentage of Overseas-Born Persons Resident in Capital Cities by Origin and Length of Residence, 1986 and 1996
Table 6: Sydney and Melbourne: Estimated Components of Change, 1947-66, 1976-86, 1986-91 and 1991-96
Table 7: Sydney and Melbourne Statistical Divisions: Proportion of Population Overseas-Born, 1947-96
Table 8: Australia: Distribution of Population Between Major Urban, Other Urban and Rural Areas by Birthplace Groups, 1996
Table 9: Sydney and Melbourne: Immigrants and Their Australia-Born Children, 1981-96
Table 10: Sydney and Melbourne: First and Second Generation Population of Non-English-Speaking (NES) Origin, 1996
Table 11: Sydney and Melbourne: Representation and Growth of Major Birthplace Groups, 1981-96
Table 12: Australia: Australia-Born and Overseas-Born, Period of Residence by Section of State, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996
Table 13: Australia: Migrants Arriving 1991-1996 Aged 5 Years and Over and Total Population, 1996
Table 14: Net Overseas Immigration(a), Total Australia and South Australia, 1966-1998
Table 15: South Australia Net Migration
Table 16: Canada: Percentage Distribution of Resident Population and Immigrants Settling by Province, 1996
Table 17: Canada: Distribution of Immigrants by Class of Settlement in Provinces, 1996
Table 18: Australia: Distribution of Population Between States and Territories, 1881-1998

List of Figures

Figure 1: Australia: Population Density 1996
Figure 2: Australia: Distribution of the Total Population, 1997
Figure 3: Australia: Distribution of the Indigenous Population, 1996
Figure 4: Australia: Rural Population 1911-1996
Figure 5: Non-Metropolitan SLAs, Population Change 1991-1996
Figure 6: Australia: Distribution of Australia-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996
Figure 7: Australia: Distribution of Overseas-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996
Figure 8: Australia: Distribution of Non-English Speaking (NES) Origin-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996
Figure 9: Australia: Distribution of Mainly English Speaking (MES) Origin-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996
Figure 10: Sydney and Melbourne: Growth of Total and Non-English Speaking Overseas-Born Populations, 1911-1996
Figure 11: Sydney and Melbourne: Birthplace Composition, 1947-96
Figure 12: Australia: Designated Areas Currently Attracting a Disproportionate Share of Incoming Migrants
Figure 13: South Australia: Total Population Growth Showing the Natural Increase and Net Migration Components, 1947-98
Figure 14: Westward Drift of the US Population Centroid, 1790-1990
Figure 15: Shifts in the Australian Population Centroid*, 1911-1996

Major Issues

  • Australia is the fourth least densely settled country in the world. Moreover, it has a highly concentrated pattern of settlement with 83 per cent of the population living within 50 km of the coast and 62.7 per cent living in cities with 100 000 or more residents.
  • The broad pattern of distribution has been constant for more than a century but within some areas significant changes are occurring in distribution:
  • there is a northward drift of the population to southeast Queensland with that state increasing its share of the population from 14.9 to 18.2 per cent since 1971.
  • there was a decline from 74.5 to 69.5 per cent in the share of the population in the southeastern states.
  • there is a growing dichotomisation occurring between non-metropolitan areas in the coastal areas of the east and southwest which are growing in population and the bulk of the dry farming and rangeland areas which are experiencing population decline.
  • Immigration contributes to changes in the distribution of the population since migrants do not settle in Australia in the same places as the Australia-born population:
  • they are disproportionately represented in NSW, Victoria and WA and under-represented elsewhere.
  • migrants are especially concentrated in major cities, in particular Sydney and, to a lesser extent, Melbourne.
  • Recent arrivals have shown an increasing tendency to settle in major urban areas since 1986, especially among the non-English speaking origin groups.
  • Not only have post-war migrants tended to settle in Australia's larger urban areas but they have concentrated especially in two cities-Sydney (1996 population 3.74 million) and Melbourne (1996 population 3.14 million). By 1961 Melbourne had surpassed Sydney as having the largest overseas-born community in the nation but in the last two decades Sydney has reasserted itself as the major focus of immigrant settlement in Australia, so that at the 1996 Census it had 29.4 per cent of the nation's overseas-born compared with 23.4 per cent in Melbourne.
  • International migration to Sydney and Melbourne has been counterbalanced by a net outflow of the Australia-born population equivalent in size to half the overseas-born flow in Sydney and almost equal in size to that in Melbourne.
  • In the early post-war years policies were initiated to settle migrants in non-metropolitan areas where there was a significant labour shortage and the programs were initiated to attract people to fill jobs. In 1947 a quarter of all overseas born persons lived in rural areas but this was reduced to 7.4 per cent in 1996.
  • In recent years there have been attempts to attract migrants away from settling in the areas considered to be experiencing pressure from population growth-Sydney and environs, Southeast Queensland and Perth. These are still in their infancy but have met with only limited success with the main activity being in South Australia.
  • The question is raised as to whether the efforts currently being expended in attracting newly arrived immigrants to areas of Australia perceived to have population growth which is too low may be more productively directed at the established Australian resident population in areas perceived to be experiencing pressures of population such as diseconomies of scale, environmental pollution, spiralling land and home costs, congestion, accelerating overhead costs, etc.
  • The relative lack of success of schemes in Australia and elsewhere to encourage migrant settlement in non-metropolitan centres suggests that the future of Australia's population distribution is more likely to be shaped indirectly by policies which encourage (or discourage) economic development outside core regions of the country rather than by direct interventions to influence where new immigrants to Australia settle.

Introduction

Australia is one of the least densely populated countries (2.3 persons per km2) in the world but it also has one of the most spatially concentrated populations as Figure 1 indicates. In 1996 some 83 per cent of the population lived within 50 km of the coast.

Figure 1: Australia: Population Density 1996

Figure 1: Australia: Population Density 1996

Source: Calculated from ABS 1996 Census

This uneven distribution has long been an issue of debate in Australia (Rowland 1982, 23-24) and raises a number of important policy issues in both the closely and sparsely settled areas. In the former issues of negative environmental impacts, overcrowding, diseconomies in service provision, etc. abound, while in the latter questions of economic and social viability and lack of access to services loom large.

This paper begins by briefly addressing the question of the extent to which Australia's population distribution is changing. Changes in population distribution can occur through a number of demographic processes:

  • natural increase levels (i.e. excess of births over deaths) varying between regions
  • internal migration whereby Australian residents leave some areas and concentrate in others
  • international migration whereby arrivals from overseas concentrate in particular areas and adopt a settlement pattern different from that of the established population.

All three elements have played a role in producing varying levels of population growth in different parts of Australia and subsequently shifts in population distribution. There are variations in age structure, fertility and mortality between areas which influence regional population growth although these effects are less substantial than the other two processes in shaping population distribution. Certainly internal migration is having a significant effect in shaping Australia's population distribution.(1) However, the focus in the present paper is on the third of these processes-the impact of where overseas immigrants settle upon national population distribution.

The debate about population and immigration in Australia has long included supporters of high immigration who have argued that Australia's empty spaces provide a rationale for higher immigration levels and that such immigration could provide a solution to problems of regional decline. However, immigrants have in fact shown less inclination than the Australia-born to disperse. The present Government, in conjunction with State government has, since 1996, put in place a range of measures to encourage migrant settlement in regional areas. The Labor Party has indicated that population distribution will be a central feature of its proposed population policy, and that it is considering further incentives to encourage the settlement of an expanded migrant intake away from Australia's major cities. Accordingly the present paper seeks to:

  • explain where migrants live, and why they settle where they do
  • discuss trends in recent years and amongst newer communities towards a greater urban concentration and towards settlement in Australia's larger cities, Sydney and Melbourne
  • summarise regional migration schemes and incentives since World War II (WWII) and their degree of success
  • look at current and proposed Commonwealth/State schemes and incentives, the scope of their objectives and the extent to which these are being achieved
  • examine similarities and differences in migrant settlement patterns and issues in other countries that have planned immigration programs, such as Canada
  • describe the sorts of levers for manipulating where migrants settle that are realistically available to Australian governments
  • describe the likely settlement patterns of future migrants.

Changing Patterns of Australian Population Distribution

Urban/Rural

Australia's population is a strongly concentrated one as shown in Figure 2 with a strong clustering in the east coast, southeast and southwest regions. It is interesting in passing to note that the pre-European population distribution was much less concentrated as is that of the present day indigenous population (Figure 3). A feature of this uneven population distribution is the high degree of concentration in large urban areas. Australia has adopted 1000 persons as the minimum size of a settlement to qualify as an urban area and since the 1960s has adopted a population density based system to define urban areas (Hugo et al. 1997). The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) divides the nation into the following Sections of State:

  1. Major Urban-urban centres with a population of 100 000 and over.

  2. Other Urban-urban centres with a population of 1000 to 99 999.

  3. Bounded Rural Locality-population clusters of 200-999.

  4. Rural Balance-the remaining Collection Districts (CDs).

  5. Migratory-offshore, shipping and migratory persons.

Figure 2: Australia: Distribution of the Total Population, 1997

Figure 2: Australia: Distribution of the Total Population, 1997

Source: ABS 1999a

Figure 3: Australia: Distribution of the Indigenous Population, 1996

Figure 3: Australia: Distribution of the Indigenous Population, 1996

Source: ABS 1999a

While it is difficult to make comparisons between censuses because of changing boundaries of urban places and population centres moving between categories, Table 1 shows the patterns of population change in each Section of State category over the 1954-96 period. It will be noted that over the period up to 1971 there was an increase in the proportion of the national population living in major urban areas. There was a small decrease between 1971 and 1976 heralding the 'turnaround' trend or a sharp reversal of previous patterns of population concentration. Thereafter, comparisons are made more difficult due to boundary changes and bracket creep but using 1991 boundaries there has been at least a stabilisation in the proportion of population living in cities with 100 000 or more residents. On the other hand, the proportions living in rural areas substantially declined up to 1971. This was the continuation of a long standing trend. Figure 4 indicates that there was a consistent pattern of decrease in the proportion of Australians living in rural areas up to 1971 and a decline in numbers of rural residents in some intercensal periods up to that year. However, since then there has been a stabilisation of the rural population at around 14 per cent and an increase in the numbers of rural dwellers.

Figure 4: Australia: Rural Population 1911-1996

Figure 4: Australia: Rural Population 1911-1996

Source: Australian Censuses 1911-1996

Table 1: Australia: Population Growth by Section of State, 1976-96

Census Year

Major Urban Number

%

Non-Metropolitan

Number

%

Other Urban Number

%

Rural Number

%

Australia Number

%

Number

1976

8 654 328

63.9

4 900 703

36.1

2 997 043

22.1

1 888 602

13.9

13 555 031

100.0

1981

9 202 318

63.2

5 364 012

36.8

3 287 438

22.6

2 063 600

14.2

14 566 330

100.0

1986

9 817 933

62.9

5 784 223

37.1

3 517 360

22.5

2 266 863

14.5

15 602 156

100.0

1991

10 461 964

62.1

6 338 576

37.9

3 877 950

23.0

2 510 626

14.9

16 850 540

100.0

1996

11 221 393

62.7

6 671 030

37.3

4 161 498

23.3

2 509 532

14.0

17 892 423

100.0

Per cent

1976-81

6.3

9.5

9.7

9.3

7.5

1981-86

6.7

7.8

6.4

9.8

7.1

1986-91

6.6

10.4

10.3

10.8

8.0

1991-96

6.2

4.4

7.3

-0.04

6.2

Note: Based on the section of state as defined in the report of the 1981 census. Non-major urban includes migratory population.

Source: ABS 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996 Censuses

The figures in Table 1 give a false impression of a steady state situation. In fact these national totals mask a great deal of variation between areas with respect to population growth. This is evident in Figure 5 which shows population change at Statistical Local Area (SLA) level in non-metropolitan Australia between 1991 and 1996. Clearly the turnaround in Australia is a strongly spatially concentrated phenomenon (Hugo 1996). Population growth in non-metropolitan areas is concentrated in particular ecological areas such as:

  • peri-urban areas surrounding major urban areas in which commuting is significant
  • attractive coastal localities, especially along the east, southeast and southwest coasts
  • some major regional centres
  • some mining and tourist destinations
  • along some major roads (e.g. Hume Highway) and rivers.

Figure 5: Non-Metropolitan SLAs, Population Change 1991-1996

Figure 5: Non-Metropolitan SLAs, Population Change 1991-1996

Source: ABS 1991 and 1996 Censuses

On the other hand, the bulk of dry farming areas and much of the pastoral zone continue to experience significant population losses.

State/Territory Comparisons

There have also been some changes in the distribution of population between Australia's states and territories. Table 2 shows that over the 1976-96 period the proportion of Australian's living in the southeastern states (NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) has decreased from 74.5 per cent to 69.5 per cent. On the other hand, Queensland has increased its share of the national population from 14.9 to 18.2 per cent and Western Australia from 8.4 to 9.6 per cent. The territories have experienced a smaller increase in their share of the national population. Hence there has been a northward, and to a lesser extent, western shift in the centre of gravity of the Australian population distribution. Nevertheless, it remains a very spatially concentrated distribution.

Table 2: Australia: Population of States and Territories, 1976-1996

State and Territory

1976

1981

1986

1991

1996

'000

NSW

4960.8

5234.9

5531.5

5898.7

6204.7

Vic.

3811.4

3946.9

4160.9

4420.4

4560.2

Qld

2091.7

2245.2

2624.6

2961.0

3338.7

SA

1274.6

1318.8

1382.6

1446.6

1474.3

WA

1178.9

1300.1

1459.0

1636.1

1765.3

Tas.

412.4

427.2

446.5

466.8

474.4

NT

98.3

122.6

154.4

165.5

181.8

ACT

207.4

227.6

258.9

289.3

308.3

Aust.

14 035.7

14 923.3

16 018.4

17 284.0

18 310.7

Per cent

NSW

35.3

35.1

34.5

34.1

33.9

Vic.

27.2

26.4

26.0

25.6

24.9

Qld

14.9

15.7

16.4

17.1

18.2

SA

9.1

8.8

8.6

8.4

8.1

WA

8.4

8.7

9.1

9.5

9.6

Tas.

2.9

2.9

2.8

2.7

2.6

NT

0.7

0.8

1.0

1.0

1.0

ACT

1.5

1.5

1.6

1.7

1.7

Aust.

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Source: ABS 1998

Geographical Distribution of Immigrants

Distribution Between the States and Territories

Figures 6 and 7 depict the national distribution of the Australia-born and overseas-born populations at the time of the 1996 census and some clear differences are immediately apparent. The immigrant population is clearly a more concentrated one. Table 3 shows that Western Australia has the greatest concentration of migrants in relation to its total population with 27.8 per cent of residents being born overseas compared with 22 per cent in the nation as a whole.

The other part of the nation in which there is a disproportionate representation was the southeastern quadrant of the mainland comprising NSW, Victoria and the ACT. For almost the entire post-war period, South Australia has had more than its share of immigrants but at the 1996 Census its proportion had fallen slightly below the national average. Tasmania is the State least affected by immigrant settlement and the Northern Territory also has a below average presence of migrants. Most striking, however, is Queensland which, despite being far and away the most rapidly growing State over the last two decades, has a significant 'under' representation of overseas-born people, indicating clearly that the bulk of that State's rapid growth has been fuelled by interstate, rather than international net migration gains. Certainly the share of the overseas-born population in Queensland has increased from 15 per cent in 1986 to 17.4 per cent in 1991 but fell to 16.8 per cent in 1996 but even much of this gain has been due to internal migration of overseas-born people who had lived for extended periods in other States (Bell 1992).

On the other hand, NSW and Victoria have been growing at well below the national average but they have continued to receive a disproportionate share of immigrants coming to Australia. This is due partly to Melbourne and Sydney being important ports of arrival of immigrants and also to many of the immigrants being chain migrants attracted by, and joining, settlers from their country of origin who moved into Victoria and New South Wales in earlier post-Second World War years. In South Australia, substantial industrial development in the 1950s and 1960s attracted a disproportionate share of immigrants but economic restructuring and the decline of Australian manufacturing over the last two decades has resulted in a much smaller share of immigrants settling there. It is clear then, that although the employment situation in the States and Territories is of significance in shaping the destination of immigrants, the relationship at the State level is by no means a deterministic one.

Figure 6: Australia: Distribution of Australia-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996

Figure 6: Australia: Distribution of Australia-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Figure 7: Australia: Distribution of Overseas-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996

Figure 7: Australia: Distribution of Overseas-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Table 3: Australia: Concentration of Overseas-Born People, 1996

Proportion of Population Born In

State of Current Residence

MESC(a)

Other

Europe(b)

Other

Countries

Total

Overseas-born

New South Wales

7.4

5.9

9.9

23.2

Victoria

6.8

9.2

7.9

23.9

Queensland

9.5

3.3

4.0

16.8

South Australia

10.7

7.1

3.5

21.3

Western Australia

15.9

5.3

6.5

27.8

Tasmania

6.3

2.4

1.5

10.2

Northern Territory

7.4

3.2

4.9

15.5

Australian Capital Territory

8.7

6.4

7.3

22.4

Australia

8.7

6.2

7.2

22.0

(a) Mainly English-speaking countries (Ireland, South Africa, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand).
(b) Excluding UK and Ireland.

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Ethnic Mix

States and Territories have not only differed in the extent to which they have attracted immigrants but there are also some interesting differences in their 'mix' of birthplace groups due to historical differences in the timing of them receiving heavy net migration gains, as well as differences in policies followed by particular States to attract immigrants of particular types. These are reflected in Figures 8 and 9 which show that there is a significant difference in the national distribution of immigrants from mainly English-speaking (MES) origin countries and those from mainly non-English-speaking (NES) origins.

Figure 8: Australia: Distribution of Non-English Speaking (NES) Origin-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996.

Figure 8: Australia: Distribution of Non-English Speaking (NES) Origin-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996.

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Figure 9: Australia: Distribution of Mainly English Speaking (MES) Origin-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996

Figure 9: Australia: Distribution of Mainly English Speaking (MES) Origin-Born Population by Statistical Division, 1996

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Table 3 also indicates these differences which can be briefly summarised as follows (Hugo 1986, 1988, 1989-92):

  • Persons born in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are the largest overseas-born group in each state but have a low representation in the major immigrant receiving states of New South Wales and Victoria as well as the two territories. On the other hand, they account for more than half of all overseas-born persons in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
  • European-born persons make up over half of the overseas-born population in each state and make up a very substantial proportion of the overseas-born in the states which have recorded very slow growth in recent years (South Australia and Tasmania).
  • Among the NES European groups there is substantial interstate variation. The Italian-born account for 6.1 per cent of all Australia's overseas-born population (down from 9.2 per cent in 1981) but their share in the states varies from 9.4 per cent (Victoria) to 2.1 per cent (Northern Territory). The Italian-born are most heavily represented in those states taking disproportionately large shares of immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s-Victoria and South Australia.
  • Persons born in the former Yugoslavia represent 3.9 per cent of the total overseas-born and are most heavily concentrated in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. Greek-born persons account for 5.9 per cent of the overseas-born and almost half (48.8 per cent) of them live in Victoria. Victoria's overseas-born have a larger Southern European component than other States and this clearly differentiates that state's stock of overseas-born immigrants from others.
  • The smaller numbers from Northern and Western continental European countries are more evenly distributed between states and territories.
  • Much controversy surrounds the substantial growth of the Asian population. They expanded their proportion of the overseas-born from 12.4 per cent in 1981 to 16.5 per cent in 1986, 18.3 per cent in 1991 and 21.9 per cent in 1996. There is a disproportionate share of Asians in New South Wales which accounts for 44.2 per cent of the total Asia-born population compared with 33.2 per cent of the Australia-born while Victoria also has a disproportionate concentration (28.0 per cent compared with 24.0 per cent). Western Australia, too, has a greater share of the nation's Asian population (10.1 per cent) than of the Australia-born (8.9 per cent). These three states then account for 82.3 per cent of the nation's Asian-born population but only two-thirds of the Australia-born. The recency of much Asian immigration is reflected in the low representation in the states which have experienced slow economic growth in the last decade-South Australia (4.4 per cent compared with 8.1 per cent of the Australia-born) and Tasmania. The low representation in Queensland (10.0 per cent compared with 20.0 per cent of the Australia-born), however, cannot be explained in this way.
  • The Vietnamese-born population (the largest Asian group) make up only 3.9 per cent of the overseas-born (compared with 1.4 per cent in 1981) and show a tendency to be disproportionately concentrated in New South Wales and Victoria.
  • East Asian, Indo-Chinese and Filipino and Pacific immigrants are strongly concentrated in New South Wales, and to a lesser extent, Victoria. On the other hand, South Asians, Indonesians and Malaysians are more strongly relatively concentrated in Western Australia.
  • Among other groups there is less interstate variation except for the case of New Zealanders who are strongly concentrated in the states which experienced most rapid economic growth in the 1970s-most notably Queensland and the Northern Territory (McCaskill 1982). The attractiveness of Sydney to New Zealanders has also resulted in New South Wales having an above average proportion of trans-Tasman immigrants. Americans are more concentrated in the Territories and New South Wales, and Africans in Western Australia.

Urban-Rural Distribution of Immigrants

One of the most distinctive features of post-war immigration to Australia has been the tendency for migrants to settle in the nation's largest urban areas. Table 4 shows that over the 1947-96 period the number of Australia-born persons living in cities with 100 000 or more inhabitants more than doubled so that in 1996, 57.7 per cent lived in such centres. On the other hand, the overseas-born population in the largest urban areas increased more than six times so that by 1996, 80 per cent of Australia's overseas-born lived in those cities. Hence the impact of immigration has been felt more in Australia's major cities than in the provincial cities or rural areas. Over the 1947-96 period the proportion of the population in cities with more than 100 000 residents made up by the overseas-born increased from 11.6 per cent to 29.1 per cent. Moreover, their impact upon the growth of those cities is under-estimated by these figures since the children born to overseas-born people after arrival in Australia are included with the Australia-born.

The proportion of the total national overseas-born population living in provincial cities declined slightly from 13.5 to 12.5 per cent over the 1947-96 period. However, the overseas-born in such cities increased almost fivefold so that the proportion of residents who were overseas-born increased from 7.2 to 12.3 per cent. In rural areas there was a substantial change. In 1947 a quarter of all overseas-born persons lived in rural areas but this was drastically reduced to 7.4 per cent by 1996. Nevertheless the proportion of rural residents who were overseas-born increased from 7.6 per cent to 12.1 per cent. Hence although the presence of overseas-born has increased in all three urban-rural sectors, the impact has been greatest in major urban areas. This contrasts with a great deal of pre-World War II settlement of NES-origin groups which was strongly focused upon rural areas (e.g. Borrie 1954). It is interesting to note, however, that there was no increase in the proportion of overseas-born living in major urban areas between the 1986 (79.6 per cent) and the 1991 (79.5 per cent) Censuses and it increased only slightly to 80 per cent in 1996.

Table 4: Australia: Distribution of Australia and Overseas-Born Population Between Major Urban, Other Urban and Rural Areas, 1947-96

Australia-Born

Per cent Change

Overseas-Born

Per cent Change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No.

Per cent

No.

Per cent

1947-96

No.

Per cent

No.

Per cent

1947-96

Major Urban

3 390 591

49.7

7 627 194

57.7

+125.0

453 368

61.8

3 126 263

80.0

+589.6

Other Urban

1 263 724

18.5

3 485 125

26.4

+175.8

98 284

13.5

489 550

12.5

+395.4

Rural

2 173 068

31.8

2 108 236

15.9

-3.0

181 180

24.7

290 275

7.4

+60.2

Total*

6 827 383

100.0

13 220 555

100.0

+93.6

732 832

100.0

3 906 088

100.0

+432.6

* Excludes migratory.

Source: ABS 1947 and 1996 Censuses

The first intercensal period when there was not an increase in this proportion was 1986-91. This is worth examining in a little more detail with reference to Table 5. This indicates that the recent arrivals have shown an increasing tendency to settle in major urban areas since 1986, especially among the NES origin groups.

Table 5: Australia: Number and Percentage of Overseas-Born Persons Resident in Capital Cities by Origin and Length of Residence, 1986 and 1996

Birthplace

1986

1996

0-4 Years

5+ Years

0-4 Years

5+ Years

Number

Per cent of Total Resident in Capitals

Number

Per cent of Total Resident in Capitals

Number

Per cent of Total Resident in Capitals

Number

Per cent of Total Resident in Capitals

MES Origin

181,747

76.8

877,266

73.0

119,614

75.6

944,892

70.6

NES Origin

291,044

88.6

1,236,518

83.5

376,446

90.3

1,588,030

85.1

Total Overseas-born

472,791

83.7

2,113,784

78.8

496,060

86.3

2,532,922

79.1

Source: ABS 1986 and 1996 Censuses

On the other hand, among those who are longer established in Australia there has been stability in the tendency to settle in major cities. This is consistent with a pattern of 'counter-urbanisation' or decentralisation among the Australia-born that has been recognised for the last two decades (Hugo 1994) and suggests that over time there may be some convergence in the internal migration patterns of the overseas-born toward those of the Australia-born. Bell (1992) identified increased outmigration of longstanding overseas-born older people from major urban areas during the 1981-86 period. It is noticeable in Table 5 that among the MES-born, deconcentration away from the major cities is occurring. This supports the idea of longstanding migrants, especially those from similar backgrounds to the Australia-born, converging toward the national population in its internal migration trends.

Sydney/Melbourne

Not only have post-war migrants tended to settle in Australia's larger urban areas but they have concentrated especially in two cities-Sydney (1996 population 3.74 million) and Melbourne (1996 population 3.14 million). This is reflected in the fact that while their proportions have more than doubled, Sydney and Melbourne's share of the nation's foreign-born population has increased from 46.5 per cent in 1947 to 52.3 per cent in 1991 and 52.8 per cent in 1996. On the other hand, their share of the Australia-born has fallen from 38.7 to 34.8 and 34.1 per cent. International migration has been of critical importance in the post-war growth of Sydney and Melbourne. Table 6 shows that over the first two post-war decades, more than half of the cities' growth was attributable to net gains of overseas migrants and that net gains of people from elsewhere in Australia were minor.

Moreover, it will be noted that the net gain in Melbourne was larger than in Sydney and indeed that overall growth in the southern city was greater. If we focus on the 1976-86 period, however, a different pattern is in evidence. Overall growth is substantially lower than in the first two post-war decades and natural increase (births minus deaths) is equivalent to almost all (98.6 per cent) of Melbourne's growth and 72 per cent of that of Sydney. However, if we disaggregate net migration into its international and internal components it is apparent that international migration has maintained a significant role (indeed, in the case of Sydney, an enhanced one) in the growth of the cities. This has been counterbalanced by a net outflow of the Australia-born population equivalent in size to half the overseas-born flow in Sydney and almost equal in size to that in Melbourne.

Table 6: Sydney and Melbourne: Estimated Components of Change, 1947-66, 1976-86, 1986-91 and 1991-96

Net Migration

 

 

Natural Increase

Total

International

Internal

Total Population Increase

1947-66

Sydney

Melbourne

'000s
Per cent' 000s
Per cent

379

45.3

366
42.7

457
54.7

491
57.3

441
52.7

485
56.6

17
2.0

6
0.7

836
100

857
100

1976-86

Sydney

Melbourne

'000s
Per cent' 000s
Per cent

237
72.0

205
98.6

92
28.0

3
1.4

184
55.9

91
43.8

-92
-28.0

-88
-42.3

329
100

208
100

1986-91

Sydney

Melbourne

'000s
Per cent 000s
Per cent

144
70.9

119
102.6

59
29.1

-3
-2.6

123
60.6

46
39.7

-65
-32.0

-49
-42.4

203
100

116
100

1991-96

Sydney

Melbourne

'000s
Per cent '000s
Per cent

135
77.6

109
70.3

39
22.4

46
29.7

173
99.4

102
65.8

-134
-77.0

-56
-36.1

174
100

155
100

Source: Hugo 1989, p. 68; ABS 1990, p. 10; Author's Estimates for 1986-91 using ABS Census and Vital Statistics Data

The dominance of Melbourne in the early post-war decades both in terms of population growth and in receiving overseas-born settlers had been reversed by 1976-86. The late 1980s and early 1990s has seen a further interesting development with Melbourne's overall population growth outpacing that of Sydney. However, Sydney has retained its dominance of the overseas intake with a net gain of 123 000 over the 1986-91 period compared with 46 000 in Melbourne. In 1991-96 the comparative numbers were 173 000 and 102 000. Table 6 shows that the net internal migration loss in Sydney, however, has gathered pace while that in Melbourne has reduced somewhat. This 'switchover function' (Maher and McKay 1986) of Sydney and Melbourne whereby a net loss of migrants in exchange with other parts of Australia is more than counterbalanced by an inflow of overseas migrants is an important feature of these two cities in the post-war period and part of the phenomenon of the 'turnaround' in Australia (Hugo 1989). The key point here is that net international migration gains have directly accounted for more than half of Sydney and Melbourne's net population growth over the post-war period, and if their indirect contribution via the children they have had since settling in Australia is taken into account, that contribution is closer to two thirds of net growth.

Figure 10 shows the growth of Sydney's and Melbourne's population over the post-war period and parts of that growth which have been made up of the overseas-born. It can be seen that the overseas-born have grown faster than the total population. In Melbourne they doubled between 1947 and 1954 and almost doubled again between 1954 and 1961 while the total population increased from 1.2 million to 1.9 million. Between 1961 and 1996, the overseas-born population more than doubled while the total population increased to 3 million. In Sydney the growth of the overseas-born over the 1947 and 1961 period was somewhat slower than in Melbourne with an increase of 133 per cent while the total population increased by 47 per cent. However, in the 1961-96 period Sydney's overseas-born population increased by 164 per cent compared with 106 per cent in Melbourne. Sydney's total population increased by 71 per cent.

Figure 10: Sydney and Melbourne: Growth of Total and Non-English Speaking Overseas-Born Populations, 1911-1996

Figure 10: Sydney and Melbourne: Growth of Total and Non-English Speaking Overseas-Born Populations, 1911-1996

Source: ABS Censuses

In Figure 10 the growth of the overseas-born from non-English-speaking countries of origin is especially striking. In Melbourne there was an almost fivefold increase between 1947 and 1954, a more than doubling between 1954 and 1966, and a 96 per cent increase between 1966 and 1996. Again in Sydney the growth was a little less rapid initially with an increase of 269 per cent between 1947 and 1954, and 149 per cent between 1954 and 1966. However, between 1966 and 1996, the increase of 182 per cent was almost twice as rapid as that in Melbourne.

Table 7 shows the growth of the overseas-born population in the two cities between 1947 and 1996. While Sydney gained huge numbers of immigrants during the long boom period and saw its overseas-born population more than double between 1947 and 1961, the impact was less than had occurred in Melbourne. The table shows the significance of this immigration with Melbourne's overseas-born population trebling between 1947 and 1966, and its share of the nation's total overseas-born increasing by 10 percentage points to 26.7 per cent. It will be noted that by 1961, Melbourne had surpassed Sydney as having the largest overseas-born community in the nation but in the last two decades Sydney has reasserted itself as the major focus of immigrant settlement in Australia, so that at the 1996 Census it had 29.4 per cent of the nation's overseas-born compared with 23.4 per cent in Melbourne. These fluctuations have been in concert with shifts in the changing roles of the two cities.

Table 7: Sydney and Melbourne Statistical Divisions: Proportion of Population Overseas-Born, 1947-96

Sydney Statistical Division

Melbourne Statistical Division

All Australia

No. of Overseas-born

% of all Overseas-born

No. of Overseas-born

% of all Overseas-born

No. of

Overseas-born

1947

191 107

25.7

125 258

16.8

744 187

1954

308 778

24.0

261 470

20.3

1 286 466

1961

434 663

24.4

444 479

25.0

1 778 780

1966

558 236

26.2

568 365

26.7

2 130 920

1971

681 313

26.4

687 266

26.6

2 579 318

1976

736 754

27.1

706 331

26.0

2 718 855

1981

834 280

27.8

754 117

25.1

3 003 833

1986

912 578

28.1

788 266

24.3

3 247 381

1991

1 070 627

28.5

893 445

23.8

3 755 554

1996

1 148 869

29.4

915 449

23.4

3 908 213

Source: ABS 1947, 1954, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996 Censuses

Table 8: Australia: Distribution of Population Between Major Urban, Other Urban and Rural Areas by Birthplace Groups, 1996

Birthplace

Percentage

Total Number

Major Urban

Other Urban

Rural

Australia

57.7

26.3

16.0

13 227 776

Argentina

92.0

5.2

2.8

10 755

Austria

71.9

16.4

11.7

20 575

Bangladesh

94.8

4.2

0.9

5 075

Belgium

70.5

16.0

13.5

4 771

Bulgaria

91.2

4.5

4.3

2 278

Burma

91.8

5.4

2.8

10 139

Cambodia

97.4

1.2

1.4

21 549

Canada

71.8

17.4

10.8

25 132

Chile

94.4

3.8

1.8

23 818

China

94.6

3.8

1.6

111 011

Cyprus

91.9

5.4

2.7

20 653

Czechoslovakia

80.5

11.8

7.7

17 295

Denmark

65.0

20.3

14.8

8 987

Egypt

94.2

3.9

1.9

34 160

El Salvador

93.8

4.9

1.3

9 863

England

67.7

20.0

12.3

872 062

Estonia

75.3

13.4

10.9

2 826

Fiji

89.6

7.2

3.2

37 101

Finland

69.2

17.6

13.2

8 615

France

76.0

14.0

10.0

16 066

Germany

67.1

19.1

13.8

110 331

Greece

93.3

4.3

2.4

126 520

Hong Kong

94.9

3.7

1.4

68 430

Hungary

82.6

10.8

6.6

25 261

India

88.3

7.9

3.8

77 551

Indonesia

87.8

9.1

3.2

44 176

Iran

95.5

3.0

1.5

16 271

Iraq

97.5

1.3

1.2

14 003

Republic of Ireland

77.2

14.8

8.0

51 469

Israel

93.0

3.6

3.3

6 263

Italy

84.2

8.7

7.1

238 246

Japan

86.0

9.8

4.2

23 015

Korea

94.1

3.6

2.3

30 090

Laos

92.7

5.7

1.6

9 883

Latvia

81.4

12.7

5.9

8 024

Lebanon

96.9

1.7

1.4

70 225

Lithuania

83.6

11.2

5.2

4 225

Malaysia

88.8

8.1

3.0

76 255

Malta

81.9

8.2

10.0

50 879

Netherlands

59.5

23.7

16.8

87 898

New Zealand

69.1

19.6

13.3

291 388

Northern Ireland

72.3

18.1

9.5

23 026

Norway

67.6

18.9

13.5

2 614

Pakistan

90.5

6.6

2.9

8 357

Papua New Guinea

64.3

24.8

10.9

24 373

Philippines

83.5

12.2

4.3

92 947

Poland

87.9

8.8

3.2

65 113

Portugal

92.3

6.1

1.7

17 122

Romania

89.1

6.9

4.0

12 329

Scotland

70.5

20.0

9.4

146 274

Singapore

88.1

7.7

4.2

29 490

South Africa

83.7

10.0

6.3

55 755

Spain

84.4

10.2

5.3

13 586

Sri Lanka

91.9

6.1

2.0

46 986

Sweden

71.5

16.7

11.9

6 078

Switzerland

65.6

17.3

17.2

9 952

Taiwan

95.1

2.1

2.8

19 545

Thailand

84.2

11.6

4.2

18 936

Tonga

88.4

8.6

3.0

7 109

Turkey

92.9

5.2

1.8

28 869

Ukraine

89.4

8.0

2.6

13 479

UK/Ireland

68.6

19.7

11.7

1 124 031

USA

72.6

16.2

11.1

49 528

Other former USSR

94.0

4.1

1.9

21 207

Uruguay

94.6

3.3

2.0

9 715

Viet Nam

97.5

1.5

1.0

151 055

Wales

68.0

20.9

11.1

27 488

Former Yugoslavia

89.8

6.1

4.1

175 422

Zimbabwe

72.8

16.9

10.3

8 956

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Table 9: Sydney and Melbourne: Immigrants and Their Australia-Born Children, 1981-96

 

Sydney

Melbourne

 

1981

1996

Per cent change 1981-1996

1981

1996

Per cent change 1981-1996

 

No.

Per cent

No.

Per cent

No.

Per cent

No.

Per cent

Overseas-Born

882503

27.5

1148869

32.2

+30.2

789123

29.0

915449

29.3

+16.0

Australia-Born Children of Two Overseas-Born Parents

338843

10.6

421788

11.8

+24.5

344298

12.6

391532

12.5

+13.7

Australia-Born Children of One Overseas-Born Parent (includes not stated)

374027

11.7

415327

11.6

+11.0

298414

11.0

465661

14.9

+56.0

Australia-Born Children of Two Australia-Born Parents

1609323

50.2

1583428

44.4

-1.6

1290982

47.4

1349601

43.2

+4.5

Total

3204696

100.0

3569412

100.0

+10.4

2722817

100.0

3122243

100.0

+14.7

Source: Burnley 1986; ABS 1996 Census

Table 10: Sydney and Melbourne: First and Second Generation Population of Non-English-Speaking (NES) Origin, 1996

Sydney

Melbourne

Born in NES Country

872 497

680 371

Australia-Born

Both Parents Born in NES Country

318 741

310 303

One Parent Born in NES Country

170 229

161 636

Total

1 361 467

1 152 310

Per cent

36.4

36.9

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Sydney/Melbourne Ethnic Mix

Turning to the shifts in the ethnic structure of Sydney and Melbourne over the post-war period, Figure 11 shows the changes in the proportions of the overseas-born population at various post-war censuses who originated from various regions of the world. It is clear that the changes have been substantial:

  • most striking is the consistent pattern of decline in the proportion from the UK and Ireland over the period
  • the proportion from Oceania (mainly New Zealand) declined over the first quarter-century but subsequently increased, especially in Sydney
  • the pattern for Southern Europeans is one of a rapid increase up to 1971 but a subsequent attenuation as the flow of immigrants from Greece and Italy dried up over the last two decades. The greater significance of Southern Europeans in Melbourne than Sydney is also evident
  • a similar pattern is apparent for migrants from other Continental European nations for which the trajectory of post-war migration has tended to follow the Southern Europeans
  • the spectacular increase of Asian origin immigrants since 1971 is especially apparent in the diagram. The greater significance of Asian origin settlers in Sydney than Melbourne is also evident
  • other origin groups have a much smaller representation but a general pattern of increased significance in the last two decades.

Overall then the rapid increase in the overseas-born population in Sydney and Melbourne has been accompanied by equally striking increase in ethnic diversity among them. Figure 11 shows the changing ethnic mix of Sydney and Melbourne in terms of the major origins of migrants but the reality is much more complex with a myriad of individual nations being represented by significant communities in the two cities. It is difficult to depict this diversity adequately here but in 1996 there were 87 separate birthplace groups with more than 1000 representatives in Sydney and there are many other smaller but viable communities (e.g. see Moser et al. 1993). Recent changes in the sizes of the largest overseas-born groups are shown in Table 11. It is noticeable first of all that almost all groups have a stronger representation in Sydney and Melbourne than the Australia-born, with the only exceptions being the Dutch in Sydney and New Zealanders and North Americans in Melbourne. There are quite distinctive differences between Sydney and Melbourne evident in Table 11. These can be briefly summarised as follows:

  • the stronger Southern European element in Melbourne is reflected in the fact that of the four largest overseas-born groups, three in Melbourne are Southern European (Italian, Greek, Yugoslav) compared with one in Sydney (Italian)
  • English-speaking origin groups-UK-Eire, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Canada-are relatively more strongly represented in Sydney than in Melbourne
  • East Asian origin groups are more strongly represented in Sydney with groups from China, Philippines and Hong Kong being more than twice as numerous than in Melbourne. On the other hand, the representation of people from India and Malaysia is somewhat greater in Melbourne. The proportion of Vietnamese in the two cities is in both cases twice that of the Australia-born and the Vietnamese are the fifth largest overseas-born group in each city
  • Lebanese are very strongly concentrated in Sydney with three out of every four Lebanese Australians living in that city
  • continental European origin immigrants are more strongly concentrated in Melbourne than Sydney.

Figure 11: Sydney and Melbourne: Birthplace Composition, 1947-96

Figure 11: Sydney and Melbourne: Birthplace Composition, 1947-96

Source: ABS Censuses

Another important observation from Table 11 is the substantial change which has occurred during the 1980s. In both cities the increasing Asian presence is in evidence. In Sydney the 10 largest overseas-born groups in 1981 did not include a single Asian origin group yet by 1996 the Vietnamese, Chinese, Philippines and Hong Kong-born were in the 10 largest groups. In Melbourne the change is not quite as dramatic, reflecting the stronger Asian influence in Sydney. Nevertheless in Melbourne in 1981 there were no Asia-born groups in the largest 10 birthplace categories but by 1996 the Vietnamese, Chinese, Indians and Sri Lankans were the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth largest groups respectively. It will be noticed in Table 11 that the Asia-born groups all more than doubled in numbers in the 1980s in both cities while most of the European origin groups actually declined as death and return migration reduced their numbers. Notable exceptions here were groups born in Poland and what was Yugoslavia. Among the English-speaking origin groups there was a decline in the UK-Eire-born but significant increases in New Zealanders, South Africans and North Americans.

Table 11: Sydney and Melbourne: Representation and Growth of Major Birthplace Groups, 1981-96

Birthplace

Sydney

Melbourne

1981

1996

Per cent of national total

Per cent change 1981-1996

1981

1996

Per cent of national total

Per cent change 1981-1996

United Kingdom-Ireland

246742

209490

18.6

-15.1

210001

176993

15.7

-15.7

New Zealand

53025

66882

23.0

-26.1

23373

34827

12.0

+49.0

Italy

62682

53421

22.4

-14.8

102326

87392

36.7

-14.6

Lebanon

36010

50974

76.2

+41.6

9938

13686

19.5

+37.7

Viet Nam

15385

59395

39.3

+286.1

12523

54617

36.2

+336.1

Yugoslavia (former)

44351

*46904

29.1

+5.8

51884

*56389

35.0

+8.7

China

13162

62518

56.3

+375.0

4971

27352

24.6

+450.2

Greece

43628

37616

29.7

-13.8

69694

59542

47.1

-14.6

Philippines

7734

42454

45.7

+448.9

3198

18095

19.5

+465.8

Hong Kong

7964

37082

54.2

+365.6

3260

14993

21.9

+359.9

Germany

24097

20483

18.6

-15.0

27236

22673

20.5

-16.8

Malta

21265

17974

35.3

-15.5

26323

22271

43.8

-15.4

India

10182

25389

32.7

+149.4

11660

23044

29.7

+97.6

Malaysia

8076

17908

23.5

+121.7

9079

21740

28.5

+139.4

Poland

14134

15281

23.5

+8.1

19972

19982

30.7

+0.1

South Africa

9012

18529

33.2

+105.6

5819

10710

19.2

+84.1

Netherlands

16780

12785

14.5

-23.8

20573

16564

18.8

-19.5

USA & Canada

13595

19779

26.5

+45.5

7035

12548

16.8

+78.4

USSR (Former)

15525

*13253

30.1

-14.6

14303

*13634

31.0

-4.7

Australia

2322193

2420543

18.3

+4.2

1933694

2101475

15.9

+8.7

*1991 data

Source: Burnley 1986; ABS 1996 Census

Table 12: Australia: Australia-Born and Overseas-Born, Period of Residence by Section of State, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996

 

Australia-born

Overseas-born Period of residence

 

 

 

0-4 yrs. **

5-9 yrs

10+ yrs

 

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

1996*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Urban

6 929 439

57.5

417 534

88.4

480 910

86.3

2 037 166

77.0

Other Urban

3 187 150

26.5

38 089

8.1

48 962

8.8

373 996

14.1

Bounded Locality

348 122

2.9

2228

0.5

6198

1.1

33 632

1.3

Rural Balance

1 577 695

13.1

14 385

3.0

21 007

3.8

198 988

7.5

Migratory

4962

0.0

161

0.0

136

0.0

1494

0.1

Total

12 047 368

100.0

472 397

100.0

557 213

100.0

2 645 276

100.0

1991*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Urban

7 332 757

57.6

622 687

87.1

337 864

83.6

1 883 680

76.8

Other Urban

3 236 557

25.4

61 666

86.6

40 756

10.1

333 716

13.6

Bounded Locality

426 179

3.3

5118

0.7

4088

1.0

41 359

1.7

Rural Balance

1 723 693

13.6

25 210

3.5

21 359

5.3

191 831

7.8

Migratory

5978

0.0

263

0.0

174

0.0

1432

0.1

Total

12 725 164

100.0

714 944

100.0

404 241

100.0

2 452 018

100.0

Table 12 Continued

 

Australia-born

Overseas-born Period of residence

 

 

 

0-4 yrs

5+ yrs

 

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

1986

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Urban

7 072 791

58.4

383 956

83.9

2 128 476

78.7

Other Urban

3 048 159

25.2

47 641

10.4

346 332

12.8

Bounded Locality

375 790

3.1

4189

0.9

36 910

1.4

Rural Balance

1 064 354

13.2

19 774

4.3

190 040

7.0

Migratory

9362

0.1

2148

0.5

3245

0.1

Total

12 110 456

100.0

457 700

100.0

2 705 003

100.0

1981*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Urban

6 696 817

58.8

361 588

82.1

1 986 084

79.1

Other Urban

2 869 585

25.2

52 146

11.8

324 005

12.9

Bounded Locality

346 208

3.0

4039

0.9

31 842

1.3

Rural Balance

1 474 774

12.9

20 639

4.7

164 606

6.6

Migratory

6477

0.1

1808

0.4

2771

0.1

Total

11 393 861

100.0

440 220

100.0

2 509 308

100.0

* For overseas-born, excludes visitors and 0-4 year olds. ** Calendar years 1991-95.

Source: ABS Censuses 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996

So far we have examined the tendency for immigrants to settle in particular parts of Australia from the perspective of the entire migrant population. It is important, however, to point out that recently arrived migrants show a much greater propensity to concentrate than migrants of long standing. Part of the process of adjustment of migrants to Australia involves some dispersion of the population so that its distribution approaches (but does not reach) that of the Australia-born population. This is readily apparent in Table 12 which shows that in 1996 some 88.4 per cent of overseas-born persons who had arrived in Australia in the five years before the census lived in cities with 100 000 or more residents compared with only 57.5 per cent of the Australia-born. Moreover, for those who had been in Australia 5-9 and 10+ years the percentages were 86.3 and 77 per cent. Furthermore, it will be noted in Table 12 that there has been a progressive increase in the proportion of overseas-born persons who had been resident less than five years living in major cities from 82.1 per cent in 1981 to 88.4 per cent in 1996.

It is clear also that newly arrived migrants are showing a particular preference for Sydney. Table 13 shows that among overseas migrants who had been in Australia less than five years at the 1996 census some 37.5 per cent lived in Sydney-almost twice Sydney's share of the total national population. Some 23 per cent lived in Melbourne which has 17.5 per cent of the national population.

Table 13: Australia: Migrants Arriving 1991-1996 Aged 5 Years and Over and Total Population, 1996

Migrants Arriving

1991-1996

Total

Population

No.

%

No.

%

Sydney

206 550

37.5

3 741 290

20.9

Melbourne

126 636

23.0

3 138 147

17.5

Other Australia

216 969

39.4

11 012 986

61.6

Total

550 155

100.0

17 892 423

100.0

Source: ABS 1996 Census

Policies to Influence the Australian Population Distribution

Debates about Australia's population distribution have a long history as do the policies to 'decentralise' the nation's population (e.g. see Neutze 1963). However, for much of the period since federation, decentralisation has been 'everyone's policy but nobody's program'. Lip service has been given to the concept but, with minor exceptions (e.g. during the early 1970s), there has been little follow up with programs to implement it. In an era where development of communication systems has greatly reduced the need for business and people to locate in major urban areas and decentralisation is occurring in other Euro-American societies, this issue needs revisiting. The focus of the present paper, however, is on policies which have been introduced to influence only one group in the population-the migrant population.

At present there are two areas of policy interest relating to the spatial distribution of immigrants in Australia.

Ethnic Concentration

Firstly there has been some concern about the patterns of spatial concentration of some immigrant groups. While this has been a recurring theme in Australia recently, the issue of the development of ethnic enclaves was at the centre of the debate about modern Asian immigration to Australia initiated by Professor Geoffrey Blainey in the 1980s. He argued that the development of Indo-Chinese concentrations in certain suburbs of Australian cities jeopardised social cohesiveness and harmony in Australia. This view was opposed by commentators such as Jupp, McRobbie and York (1990) and more recently in a comprehensive study of Indo-Chinese households in Brisbane by Viviani, Coughlan and Rowland (1993). These studies stress the positive roles played by these concentrations. Much of the debate is around the nature of the spatial concentration with Viviani, Coughlan and Rowland (1993) and Jupp (1993) correctly pointing out that even in the suburbs of highest concentration of Vietnamese (Fairfield, Bankstown and Canterbury in Sydney and Springvale, Sunshine and Footscray in Melbourne) they do not make up a majority of the population. This differentiates them from ghettos in North America and Europe where particular ethnic groups dominate suburbs. On the other hand, commentators like Blainey (1993, 1994) and Birrell (1993) point to the high proportions of the total Indo-Chinese community living in these suburbs. In fact, both of these positions are correct.

The crucial point is whether or not the patterns of concentration are operating in the best interests of the immigrants themselves or Australia more widely. Blainey and Birrell lean toward the effects being negative. Blainey has said 'It is too early to judge whether these Indo-Chinese enclaves are in the interests of Australia or even in the long term interest of the migrants' (Blainey 1993, p. 45). However, Jupp and Viviani have presented considerable evidence of positive elements associated with these concentrations. It is a debate which will continue and needs to be better informed by more detailed knowledge of the effects of residential concentration among groups like the Indo-Chinese on the well-being of the people involved and on the wider community.

Regional Migration

The second issue are efforts to channel recently arrived migrants to settle in particular areas. This usually involves some form of decentralisation of newly arriving migrants away from major cities in order to achieve some goal of encouraging the growth of peripheral areas or of reducing perceived pressure in particular destination areas. In the last decade or so discussion has centred on whether there should be government intervention to influence where immigrants should settle upon arrival in Australia. There are some suggestions that the disproportionate concentration of overseas migrants in Sydney and Melbourne is having negative environmental and economic consequences (NPC 1992) and as a result some have suggested that migrants or some migrants should be diverted away from Sydney and Melbourne upon arrival in Australia. There have been some attempts to influence where immigrants settle in Australia during the post-war period (Hugo 1993).

Early Regional Migration Programs

The 2-year bonding system applied to the settlement of displaced persons (DP) and some other European groups in the early post-war years (Kunz 1988) which allocated settlers to areas suffering labour shortages, often in remote non-metropolitan locations. The most famous example of this was the direction of substantial numbers of Europeans to the Snowy Mountains Scheme. However, the group was dispersed to a wide range of areas suffering labour shortages. These included the development of hydro-electric schemes in Tasmania, forestry areas in Western Australia (Hugo 1989-92), isolated railway sidings, mining areas and other remote areas where it was difficult to attract people in the tight labour market of the early postwar years. Displaced persons were under a bond for two years to work where they were allocated by the federal government. At the expiration of the two years the majority moved out of these non-metropolitan areas to the nation's major cities (although some stayed in these non-metropolitan locations as was shown in the 1986 and 1991 Atlas of Australian People series) (Hugo 1989-92, Hugo and Maher (eds.) 1995-98).

Also in the early post-war years the South Australian government was active in attracting migrants from the United Kingdom to settle in the state by offering a package of incentives (assisted passage provided by the federal government, housing provided by the South Australia Housing Trust and a guaranteed job, usually in the rapidly expanding manufacturing sector of the state). This was highly effective in making that state a major destination of immigrants from the UK in the 1950s and 1960s (Hugo 1988).

In both of these cases the policies were initiated where there was a significant labour shortage and the programs were initiated to attract people to fill the jobs. This is somewhat different to the present situation where there are attempts to:

  1. deflect migrants away from areas of concentration of overseas-born people because they are seen to contribute to the difficulties of service provision, costs of housing, increases in pollution, etc. in these places. In some quarters the increased financial costs of living in Sydney and to some extent reduced amenity of the city have been laid at the door of immigrants (e.g. Birrell 1990, 1991). It has been suggested that immigration is the direct cause of these negative externalities. In 1995, for example, the newly elected Premier of NSW called for a reduction of the immigration intake to reduce the economic, environmental and infrastructure pressures developing in Sydney (The Australian, 24 May 1995, p. 10). This brought to the surface a debate which has continued for many years with other commentators claiming that the blame for Sydney's difficulties hardly lay with newly arrived immigrants but more with inadequate planning of urban development and insufficient spending on infrastructure (Niewenhuysen 1995)

  2. attract migrants to areas which are lagging with the idea that the migrants may assist in encouraging the economic growth of the lagging region, use under-utilised infrastructure, etc. This has often been the result of lobbying of the Minister of Immigration by State Premiers. As a result, potential migrants have been given a bonus of five points if they agree to settle in these areas.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) has been a factor shaping where newly-arrived migrants settle in the case of refugee and humanitarian migrants. These persons sometimes arrive not having family connections in Australia and have been influenced in where they initially settle by availability of relevant accommodation or other factors. For example, Blainey (1993, p. 43) reports that in the early years of the Indo-Chinese migration to Australia the then Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs attempted 'to spread the Indo-Chinese immigrants around the main cities of Australia, so that every big city had its share and none had an undue concentration'. This, however, only applied in the early years of Indo-Chinese refugee migration to Australia in the late 1970s.

Recent Policies and Programs to Influence Where Migrants Settle

The last three years have seen a much more concerted effort by DIMA to influence where immigrants settle than at any time since the Displaced Persons influx. There are considerable variations between the states and their attitude toward migration:

  • New South Wales takes over 40 per cent of new immigrants and is keen to reduce the intake into Sydney because it is argued that this places pressure on the city's infrastructure
  • Victoria attracts a disproportionately large share of the intake with 25 per cent but the government is keen to attract more migrants to the state generally and also to Melbourne
  • Western Australia attracts a disproportionately large share of migrants with Perth accounting for most
  • in Queensland the bulk of migrants settle in the heavily populated southeast corner although as a state its share of the intake is disproportionately low
  • South Australia with over 8 per cent of the population attracts between 4 and 5 per cent of the nation's migrant intake. Its government has been the leader in pressuring the federal government to attract a greater share of immigrants to the state
  • Tasmania has 2.7 per cent of the national population but only attracts 1 per cent of new immigrants.

Commonwealth/State Mechanisms

In May 1996 the annual meeting involving Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers for immigration and multicultural affairs established a working party on regional migration which could herald a new era in patterns of migrant settlement. The working party examined ways in which a higher proportion of migrants might settle in regional Australia. They concluded that:

  • there is a greater capacity to influence the location decisions of skilled migrants than family migrants since the former are less influenced by the location of relatives and friends than the latter
  • skilled migrants have better employment outcomes and bring substantial economic benefits to regional Australia.

In March 1997 the relevant Commonwealth, state and territory ministers for immigration and multicultural affairs endorsed a set of key principles for the regional migration mechanism:

  • be sufficiently flexible to allow States and Territories to use these selectively and in a manner appropriate to their own needs
  • be non-discriminatory
  • be grounded in the findings of research
  • not impact negatively on employment and training opportunities for existing residents.

Current Schemes

A number of initiatives have been taken to attract migrants to areas which are currently receiving small intakes. This applies not only to states and state governments but regions and regional development organisations. These initiatives are mostly via a number of new sub-categories of migration entry to Australia and in general they applied these sub-categories to all areas of Australia outside three designated areas which are currently attracting a disproportionate share of incoming migrants and are shown in Figure 12. These are:

  • the Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong conurbation
  • southeastern Queensland
  • Perth.

Figure 12: Australia: Designated Areas Currently Attracting a Disproportionate Share of Incoming Migrants

Figure 12: Australia: Designated Areas Currently Attracting a Disproportionate Share of Incoming Migrants

All other areas can take advantage of the special schemes which include the following:

  • Regional Linked Category-introduced on 1 November 1996 this allowed for sponsorship of skilled relatives (brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, non-dependent children, working age parents, first cousins and grandchildren) to the designated areas. The category is not points tested but relies on the sponsor and applicant meeting certain criteria:
  1. the sponsor must have lived in the designated area for at least 12 months and not been in receipt of a social security benefit for more than 2 weeks in the previous 12 months

  2. the applicant must have a recognised Australian qualification, at least functional English if their occupations are on the Occupations Requiring English (ORE) list and be less than 45 years old.
  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)-allows employers in regional Australia to nominate overseas personnel for permanent entry to Australia where the employer has not been able to recruit suitable skilled personnel through the local labour market. The nomination must be for a genuine full-time vacancy for a two-year contract, be skilled and have Australian standard wages and conditions. The applicant must have an Australian recognised qualification, functional English and be aged less than 45
  • Regional Established Business in Australia (REBA)-came into effect on 1 July 1997; allows people temporarily in Australia who have established a business venture in the designated area to apply for permanent residence. They must have owned and operated the business for at least two years, have at least a 10 per cent holding in the business, have net assets of at least $200 000 of which at least $75 000 must be invested in the business, be actively involved in the business and meet the pass mark on the Business Skills Points Test (15 bonus points are available to those in a designated area)
  • Bonus Points for Business Skills Applicants-states and territories can sponsor Business Skills Applicants applying as Business Owners and they are considered by the Business Skills Points Test which assesses their record and assets. They receive 15 bonus points if they are sponsored by a designated state. Sponsorship also attracts other concessions
  • State/Territory Nominated Independent Scheme (STNI)-was introduced on 30 October 1997, and enables any State or Territory to sponsor up to 200 skilled migrants and their families in the independent skilled category each year. The states/territories are required to carry out an audit to establish what skills are in short supply and then select applicants accordingly
  • Skill Matching-this scheme was introduced on 1 November 1996, and builds on the fact that there are many skilled migrants applying under the Independent Migration Category whose qualifications are assessed as meeting Australian standards but they fail to meet the pass mark in the points test. Those just below the cut off (above 95) can fill out a skill matching form and they are included in the Skill Matching Data Base for selection to state and territory governments. This can be used then as a resource for the RSMS. The use of Skill Matching saw a doubling of the RSMS and STNI migrants. The RSMS doubled from 159 in 1996-97 to 314 in the first eight months of 1997-98.

These initiatives were beginning to have some effect in the sense that a small number of people took up offers by 1999, most notably in South Australia which has wholeheartedly embraced the new categories. Despite South Australia's take up of the new policies the numbers remained small and did not yet have any significant effect in the overall pattern of migrant settlement in Australia. On July 1, 1999, a new battery of measures was initiated in order to encourage greater migration to regional Australia.

  • Family Sponsored Migration-before 1 July 1999 applicants for Family Migration to Australia were treated equally regardless of where their family sponsors lived. This is now changed with different conditions applying where sponsors are in a designated area (i.e. everywhere except urban Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Perth, Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong). Where sponsors are in these areas a wider range of relatives can apply for family sponsored migration, namely:
  1. non-dependent child

  2. parent

  3. brother or sister

  4. niece or nephew

  5. grandchild.

Applicants do not have to pass the points test but must have:

  1. post-secondary education

  2. vocational English or their sponsor/caretaker to pay for English training

  3. be less than 45 years old.
  • Skill Matching Visa-was also introduced on 1 July 1999. This applies to people who are in the Skills Matching Data Base, i.e. those who have obtained a points score of between 90 and the passmark of 105. States or regions or individual employers can nominate individuals from the data base and they will then be automatically considered under the RSMS.

Accordingly, there is now a range of migration schemes oriented to attracting migrants to regional areas. Whereas in the past they have been restricted to a small points bonus being given to the applicants for settling in a designated area the new schemes offer a more substantial bonus while still ensuring a relatively highly skilled intake. However, the research indicates that there are two major factors which shape where a migrant coming to Australia settles:

  • the presence of family members and friends
  • the availability of work.

In fact, many areas of the designated 'regional' zone for special immigration programmes tend to:

  • have very small numbers of recent migrants
  • have depressed economies, high unemployment and limited economic possibilities.

The Minister described the impacts of the schemes to attract migrants to regional areas as 'patchy' (DIMA 1999). There is no doubt that the programs introduced in the past three years will divert some newly arrived migrants to regional Australia but the numbers are unlikely to be substantial and it would seem unlikely that there will be a major redistribution occuring in the main destination areas of migrants. The greatest impact is likely to come not so much in the demographic effects of these schemes but in the economic impacts, that is, the extent to which the new migrants attracted by the scheme contribute to the economic development of these areas.

It would seem that if these designated areas wished to attract a greater share of the national population their efforts to attract people may be more productive if they targeted not only recently arrived migrants. In fact some residents of Sydney and other closely settled areas may be more receptive to the blandishments of the governments of states like South Australia and Tasmania as regional development authorities for the following reasons:

  • they are likely to have more detailed information about the advantages of particular areas. For example, the recognition of Adelaide as a place of high quality lifestyle is undoubtedly greater in Sydney than in Hong Kong
  • it may be possible to attract small businesses in Sydney by the undoubted economics of locating in one of the designated areas given the higher costs of land, housing, labour and other bottom line costs. In addition, Adelaide has lifestyle advantages which may attract some owners of small and medium sized enterprises.

Effectiveness of Current Schemes/South Australia as a Case Study

It is apparent that the new initiatives are having some effects although as yet not on a scale to impact on population growth patterns. For example, 1997-98 saw almost 1700 skilled migrants being processed under the new arrangements, 65 per cent higher than those of the previous year. South Australia has led the nation in trialing the state/territory initiatives largely through its OMIA (Office of Multicultural and Immigration Affairs). The release of the most recent ABS estimates of population growth in the States would support the view that the initiatives have had some effect in South Australia. It will be noted in Table 14 that the number of migrants settling in South Australia in the 1998 calendar year was larger than at any time in the 1990s. The numbers, of course, are still relatively small and it will be noted in the table(2) that the proportion of all migrants arriving in Australia who settled in South Australia continued to fall. Nevertheless, it probably does indicate some turnaround in the fortunes of SA, at least with respect to gain of overseas immigrants. It will be noted in Table 15 that 1998 represented an important year for South Australia in that several years of net migration loss (i.e. where net outmigration was greater than net gains of international migrants) were replaced by an overall net migration gain. This was a function not just of increased net overseas origin gains but a significant fall in net losses due to interstate migration. Nevertheless, Figure 13 indicates that a significant change is occurring in South Australian net migration.

Table 14: Net Overseas Immigration(a), Total Australia and South Australia, 1966-1998

Year

(ending Dec 31)

Australia

South Australia

SA Percentage of Australian Net Migration

Number

Number

Gain

1966-70

643 351

64 766

10.1

1971-75

343 372

28 169

8.2

1976-80

293 860

10 517

3.6

1981-85

419 297

27 733

6.6

1986-90

591 770

26 570

4.5

1991-95

411 630

17 420

4.2

1996

98 827

3554

3.6

1997

76 389

3000

3.9

1998

127 445

4057

3.2

(a) Overseas Immigration

- 1966-73 = Permanent Movement

- 1974-98 = Permanent and Long-Term Movement

Source: ABS Overseas Arrivals and Departures Bulletins and Australian Demographic Statistics Quarterlies, various issues.

Table 15: South Australia Net Migration

Year

Interstate

International

Total

1992-93

-5 210

1 546

-3 664

1993-94

-3 978

1 994

-1 984

1994-95

-7 069

2 883

-4 186

1995-96

-6 192

3 653

-2 539

1996-97

-4 628

3 103

-1 525

1997-98

-3 254

4 294

+1 040

1997

-3 752

3 000

- 752

1998

-2 724

4 057

+1 303

Source: Australian Demographic Statistics Quarterlies, various issues

Figure 13: South Australia: Total Population Growth Showing the Natural Increase and Net Migration Components, 1947-98

Figure 13: South Australia: Total Population Growth Showing the Natural Increase and Net Migration Components, 1947-98

Source: ABS 1986 and Australian Demographic Statistics Quarterlies, various issues

Where immigrants settle in Australia is a result of a number of complex forces. These include the differential levels of human capital of different birthplace groups and cohorts of migrants, the presence of earlier generations of migrants of the same origin and economic and social conditions at the time of arrival. It is yet to be seen if government policy can influence those patterns.

Government Involvement in Migrant Settlement in North America

Of the other traditional immigration countries only Canada has made significant efforts to influence where migrants settle. In the United States which had 26.3 million foreign born residents in 1998, immigrants are highly concentrated in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami but there are no attempts to channel migrants elsewhere in line with an overall laissez faire settlement policy. Canada, however, has to some degree attempted to influence where migrants settle. Canada's levels of migration in recent years have been more substantial than Australia's(3) and in 1996 the intake was 7.5 per 1000 inhabitants compared to 3.4 in the USA and 5.1 in Australia (Belanger and Dumas 1998, 84). As is the case in the USA and Australia migration settlement is strongly concentrated. Over half of the 1996 intake (53 per cent) settled in the state of Ontario and 23 per cent settled in British Columbia. There has been considerable interest in dispersing this settlement among some provinces who currently perceive that they are not receiving enough migrants.

Quebec

Quebec represents a special case. Since 1979 Quebec has had authority to select some of its own migrants. Indeed, it has had almost a separate migration system having its own immigration selection officers in French speaking countries seen to be potential origins of migrants to Quebec. The Canadian government provides $C90 million a year to the province to aid the integration of migrants. The province has modified selection criteria and is able to accept French-speaking migrants with lower point scores than migrants selected for other parts of Canada. The province is able to control the selection of its independent migrants as part of the Canada-Quebec accords. Despite this, however, Quebec received only 13 per cent of Canada's 1998 intake although it had 24 per cent of Canada's resident population. It is clear that the condition of the province's labour market has been a major barrier with recent immigrants' unemployment being twice as high as among their colleagues in Toronto and Vancouver (Migrant News, 7th July 1999) and a third of all French speaking migrants in Quebec arriving between 1991 and 1996 being unemployed in 1996. This is also attributable to the 'quality' of the migrants. They were restricted to French-speaking people who wanted to go to Canada and therefore come from countries like Haiti without necessary skills, education or qualifications.

Canadian Regional Migration Schemes

Some other Canadian provinces also have attempted to attract more migrants than they currently are receiving. The Canadian Government consults with province governments in finalising each year's migration plan and exerts influence on potential migrants about their place of settlement in government recruitment offices outside the country (Dumas and Belanger 1997, p. 70). They have also tried mechanisms like offering bonus points to migrants agreeing to settle outside of the main centres in areas like Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However, they have met with little success and Table 16 shows that there are considerable discrepancies between the proportions of the national Canadian population in the 12 provinces and the proportions of the immigrant intake settling in them.

Table 16: Canada: Percentage Distribution of Resident Population and Immigrants Settling by Province, 1996

Province

Population No

%

Immigration %

Newfoundland

566 000

1.9

0.3

Prince Edward Island

137 000

0.5

0.1

Nova Scotia

944 700

3.1

1.5

New Brunswick

760 700

2.5

0.6

Quebec

7 414 800

24.6

13.2

Ontario

11 333 700

37.6

52.7

Manitoba

1 139 700

3.8

1.9

Saskatchewan

1 019 700

3.6

0.8

Alberta

2 809 800

9.3

6.3

British Columbia

3 886 100

12.9

22.7

Yukon

31 500

0.1

0.1

Northwest Territories

66 900

0.2

0.0

Total

30 110 600

100.0

100.0

Source: Belanger and Dumas 1998

Table 17: Canada: Distribution of Immigrants by Class of Settlement in Provinces, 1996

Province

Family (%)

Economic (%)

Refugees (%)

Total (%)

Newfoundland

15.0

55.5

29.5

100

Prince Edward Island

10.8

46.8

42.4

100

Nova Scotia

8.7

84.7

6.6

100

New Brunswick

25.1

49.6

25.3

100

Quebec

32.2

36.4

31.4

100

Ontario

33.0

54.6

12.4

100

Manitoba

29.6

53.7

16.8

100

Saskatchewan

23.8

46.1

30.1

100

Alberta

32.2

58.0

9.8

100

British Columbia

28.8

66.5

4.7

100

Yukon

54.5

42.9

2.6

100

Northwest Territories

57.5

38.8

3.8

100

Total

31.3

55.5

13.2

100

Source: Belanger and Dumas 1998, p. 90

It would appear that the Canadian immigration officials have less room to move than their Australian counterparts in lowering the points required to settle in some provinces. Apparently the cut off level for acceptance for settlement in Canada is considerably lower than in Australia so that a lowering of the threshold for admittance in Canada would result in acceptance of people with little chance of settling easily whereas in Australia the threshold level is higher and those just below the line have a good chance of settling successfully.

One aspect of the Canadian system is the segmentation of the intake in particular provinces with respect to the categories of migrants. This is evident in Table 17 which shows that there are big variations between provinces in the relative mix of family, economic and refugee class migrants.

Policy Instruments Available to Governments to Influence Settlement

There are a number of policy instruments available to governments to attempt to influence settlement patterns. These need to be considered under two headings-instruments aimed at influencing where overseas immigrants settle which is the main focus of the present paper and those instruments which are directed at encouraging Australian residents to move. Firstly considering policies and programs which might influence where immigrants settle, there are two sets of strategies:

  • instruments which influence immigrant selection which provide special considerations for settlers who indicate they will settle in designated areas
  • instruments which are directed at assisting immigrants who settle in the designated areas to adjust to life in the destination country.

Immigration Regulations

With respect to the first set of instruments it would seem that Australian immigration regulations have been modified substantially to allow state and regional governments to attract potential migrants whose point scores fall below the threshold for unrestricted settler entry. It remains to be seen how effective those changes will be but it is unlikely to lead to any major shift in the destinations of migrants. It is apparent that there are limits to which the government is prepared to go below the threshold for automatic entry to provide entry to designated areas since it is believed that to go too low will result in accepting people who will have substantial difficulty in adjusting to the labour market and other aspects of Australian life.

Settlement Assistance

In Canada, Quebec is given special funding to aid the adjustment of immigrants beyond that provided in other states. It may be that provision of special arrival services, especially for example in the case of business migrants, can attract some migrants. Such activities can be undertaken not only by DIMA but also state and regional authorities which are wishing to attract immigrants. This approach was used in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, in South Australia to attract migrants, especially those from the UK. Migrants settling in the state were offered house/job packages, especially in large factories such as General Motors Holden with housing made available through the South Australian Housing Trust. In the late 1990s such packages are harder to put together but the principle needs to be noted.

In summary, however, it would seem that any policy interventions are unlikely to work on their own to make a substantial change in immigrant settlement patterns. This is because:

  • many migrants are strongly influenced in deciding where they settle by the presence of family and friends and others from their home country so that they are drawn to cities like Sydney and Melbourne
  • economic prosperity is not a guarantee that migrants will be attracted. Witness, for example, the fact that Queensland has consistently received a smaller proportion of migrants than it has of the total population despite being the most rapidly growing economy of the nation. Nevertheless, it is clear that a depressed economy makes it extremely difficult to attract migrants.

Given the above it makes it unlikely that states like Tasmania and South Australia are likely to substantially increase their migrant intake.

An Alternative Approach

The above raises the larger question as to whether the efforts currently being expended in attracting newly arrived immigrants to areas of Australia perceived to have population growth which is too low may be more productively directed at the established Australian resident population in areas perceived to be experiencing pressures of population such as diseconomies of scale, environmental pollution, spiralling land and home costs, congestion, accelerating overhead costs, etc. It can be legitimately questioned that states and regions need to have population growth if they are to become prosperous but, given that some areas wish to reverse current net migration losses or increase net migration gains, it may be more productive to attempt to attract established Australians from elsewhere than to focus purely on newly arrived migrants. To take the case of South Australia, for example, one could make the following argument for adopting this strategy:

  • the targets for attracting people to South Australia (e.g. from the eastern states) are much more likely to have information about the state than newly arrived migrants. Many will have visited Adelaide and many may even have originated from South Australia or have relatives and friends there
  • the targets are more likely to be aware of the advantages of living in South Australia in terms of cheaper house and land prices, lower operating costs for companies, less congestion and life style advantages in the state
  • the development of modern transportable information technology is making it less necessary for businesses to be physically located in downtown Sydney or Melbourne to interact effectively with others located in those cities.

Hence a program aimed at attracting particular groups, especially small and medium scale entrepreneurs from areas in the eastern states experiencing some stress, may be more effective in increasing net migration gains if this is considered necessary than in putting all available efforts and resources into attracting newly arrived migrants. This is supported by the experience of contemporary North America and Europe whereby there has been substantial decentralisation of people and economic enterprises away from large cities. Most of this decentralisation has involved established citizens of those countries while newly arrived migrants tend to settle in a few of the largest cities.

Some Considerations for the Future

Population Distribution and Centralisation: USA and Australia Compared

It is interesting to compare changes in population distribution in Australia and the United States. Figure 14 shows that the period of European occupation of the United States has seen a substantial westward and, to a lesser extent, southward shift in the population centroid(4). There was a symbolic shift between 1970 and 1980 when the centre of population crossed the Mississippi River. In Australia, however, there have not been such substantial shifts in the relative population distribution across the continent. Figure 15 shows the shifts which have occurred during the twentieth century in the centre of gravity of the Australian population. It will be noted that there has been very little change over the bulk of the period since Federation. There has been a slight movement to the west and north reflecting the fact that population growth rates in Western Australia and especially Queensland have been greater than in the south east of the country in the last two decades. This reflects the pattern of stability in the population distribution although it must be explained that it is very much a 'dynamic stability' in that there are substantial flows of population. Indeed around 40 per cent of Australians move house each five years and around 17 per cent move each year (Bell and Hugo forthcoming). However, the bulk of the movement is compensating so that net redistribution is limited.

This clearly operates at the interstate level. Table 18 shows that over the present century:

  • the proportion of the national population living in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia has declined (from 81.8 per cent to 69.1 per cent)
  • the proportion in Queensland, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory has increased from 18.9 per cent to 29.9 per cent.

Again while there has been redistribution it has only resulted in a small overall shift in the population distribution toward the north and west.

Figure 14: Westward Drift of the US Population Centroid, 1790-1990

Figure 14: Westward Drift of the US Population Centroid, 1790-1990

Source: Plane and Rogerson 1994, 35

Figure 15: Shifts in the Australian Population Centroid*, 1911-1996

Figure 15: Shifts in the Australian Population Centroid*, 1911-1996

Source: Australian Censuses

* Plane and Rogerson (1994, 31) define this as follows: 'The population centroid, also called the mean centre, the mean point, the centre of gravity, or sometimes simply the centre of population. Conceptually, if the mythological Atlas were to hold up the entire area for which a centre is being computed-let's say the United States-and assuming that people were the only objects contributing to the weight (and also assuming everyone weighs the same!), the point where he would have to stand to balance the country would be the centroid.'

Table 18: Australia: Distribution of Population Between States and Territories, 1881-1998

1881

1901

1921

1947

1961

1976

1998

New South Wales

33.3

35.9

38.6

39.4

37.3

35.3

33.8

Victoria

38.3

31.8

28.2

27.1

27.9

26.9

24.9

Queensland

9.5

13.2

13.9

14.6

14.4

15.2

18.5

South Australia

12.3

9.5

9.1

8.5

9.2

9.1

7.9

Western Australia

1.3

4.9

6.1

6.6

7.0

8.4

9.8

Tasmania

5.1

4.6

3.9

3.4

3.3

2.9

2.5

Northern Territory

0.2

0.1

0.1

0.1

0.2

0.7

1.0

Australian Capital Territory

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.2

0.6

1.5

1.6

Total percentage

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Total number (million)

2.2

3.8

5.4

7.6

10.5

13.9

18.9

Source: Rowland 1982, 25; ABS 1999b

The Future

With respect to the future one can comment that Australia has in general experienced less decentralisation of its national population away from its major cities of Sydney and Melbourne and their immediate hinterlands than has occurred in many other developed countries. This would suggest that there are elements which could lead to a greater overall change in population distribution in Australia over the coming decades. These include:

  • the development of information technology which means that people and industry are less tied to location in major urban areas than in the past
  • the shift in the economy away from employment in manufacturing and agriculture to employment in service industries
  • the increasing cost differential in housing, land and infrastructure between different parts of Australia
  • the growing evidence of environmental stress in heavily populated areas like Sydney.

This may result in locations such as Adelaide which have been seen as peripheral being more able to compete for people and companies with larger, more centrally located cities.

Conclusion

Considering only where immigrants settle it is difficult to see a major change occurring since migrants will continue to be attracted to where they have a network of family and friends and to where it is perceived that economic opportunities exist. Newbold (1999), however, points out that the settlement system of the overseas-born is a dynamic one which is 'continuously restructured in response to changes in economic conditions, the immigration of earlier arrivals belonging to the same ethnic or national group or the arrival of new immigrants that reinforce the existing community. Shifting immigration policies, new information on alternative locations, employment opportunities, housing, hostility, racism (real or imagined) and/or cultural effects also alter the settlement system.' In fact, as Newbold (1999) shows in the US case, the adjustment of migrants is a segmented process with each group having a distinctive settlement pattern and different potential to locate outside the current major centres of concentration. Accordingly in the United States, centres such as Seattle and Phoenix which were previously not major migrant destinations, have become important secondary foci of settlement to Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York.

This is because the set of factors influencing the most recent migrants is different from those of the past. Hence it can be expected that just as Adelaide was able to attract more than its proportionate share of overseas arrivals in the 1950s and 1960s because it was a dynamic growing economy, should it achieve such a status again it will again attract a greater share of migrant arrivals. However, the point is that there needs to be a change in the context of migration for this to occur. Policy interventions will certainly result in a small proportion of the intake being influenced to settle outside the major centres but for a substantial change to occur it will take, among other things, a major shift in the distribution of economic opportunities.

Griffith Taylor (1947, 44) writing over half a century ago contended that Australia's future population distribution would be one which would see the population concentrated in the areas settled by 1860 and in many ways he has been proven correct. Rowland (1982, 33) contends that while the details of the Australian settlement pattern are changing, there remains a fundamental pattern along the lines suggested by Griffith Taylor. While decentralisation has been a recurring theme in the articulation of policy in Australia (Neutze 1963), there have been few direct policies which have influenced population distribution. The future of Australia's population distribution will be shaped indirectly by policies which encourage (or discourage) economic development outside of core regions of the country rather than by direct interventions to influence where new immigrants to Australia settle.

Endnotes

  1. There have been authoritative studies of internal migration patterns in Australia at the 1971 census (Rowland 1979), 1976 census (Jarvie 1984), 1981 census (Maher and McKay 1986), 1986 census (Bell 1992), 1991 census (Bell 1995) and 1996 census (Bell and Hugo forthcoming).

  2. The high national net migration gain includes a large net gain of non-permanent migrants (Hugo 1999) and since the bulk of these are counted in the eastern states this figure probably hides an increase in the share of permanent settler arrivals settling in South Australia.

  3. 215 900 in 1997, 226 072 in 1996 and 212 852 in 1995 (Belanger and Dumas 1998, pp. 82-4).

  4. Plane and Rogerson (1994, p. 31) define this as follows: 'The population centroid, also called the mean centre, the mean point, the centre of gravity, or sometimes simply the centre of population. Conceptually, if the mythological Atlas were to hold up the entire area for which a centre is being computed-let's say the United States-and assuming that people were the only objects contributing to the weight (and also assuming everyone weighs the same!), the point where he would have to stand to balance the country would be the centroid.'

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