Why cutting Australia’s migrant intake would do more harm than good, at least for the next decade



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It’s easy to blame congestion on immigrants. But it’s really jobs that do it. People flock to where the jobs are, whether they are immigrants or not.
Shutterstock

Peter McDonald, University of Melbourne

Australia’s population is among the fastest growing in the OECD with an increase of 1.7 per cent in 2016-17.

In Sydney and Melbourne traffic congestion has become so intolerable many believe a cut to migration would provide time for infrastructure such as roads and trains to catch up.

Net Overseas Migration was 262,000 in 2016-17, one of the highest levels on record.

They are all compelling reasons to cut the size of the migration program, right?

No, not right. Not at all.

Our migration program is no bigger than it was

Including the humanitarian movement, the government migration program has been set at a near-constant level of a little over 200,000 since 2011-12.

In 2017-18, although the level set in the budget remained above 200,000, the actual intake was 179,000, including an unusually large intake of refugees mainly from Syria and Iraq.

The combined Skilled and Family Streams fell short of the levels set in the budget by 28,000. The reasons for this shortfall are unclear.

‘Net overseas migration’ is different to migration

Net Overseas Migration includes the government program but also other movements in to and out of Australia which both add to and subtract from it.

New Zealand citizens are allowed to enter Australia without restriction. Many people such as international students enter Australia on temporary visas.

Permanent and temporary Australian residents are allowed to leave without restriction.




Read more:
FactCheck: is Australia’s population the ‘highest-growing in the world’?


The net effect of all of these movements can change the recorded “net overseas migration” in ways that are inconsistent with what’s been happening to the migration program.

If, for instance, the Australian economy picked up and fewer Australians decided to leave for better prospects overseas, recorded “net overseas migration” would increase even if the migration program hadn’t.

The two have been moving increasingly independently since mid 2006 when the Australian Bureau of Statistics changed its definition of “resident”, making temporary residents more likely to be counted in the population and their movements counted in net overseas migration.




Read more:
International students impaled on (illusory) population spike


Over the past five years, the number of international students arriving has increased every year but there have been few international student departures.

Inevitably, the departures of students will increase in future years and recorded net overseas migration will fall sharply again.

So, forget the near-record official net overseas migration figure of 262,000 – the underlying level of net overseas migration is more likely to be around 200,000. The underlying level of population growth is about 1.4%, and falling.

We’ll need strong migration for at least a decade

A new study by Shah and Dixon finds there will be 4.1 million new job openings in Australia over the eight years between 2017 and 2024.

Over two million of these new openings will be due to “replacement demand”, effectively replacing the retirements from the labour force of baby boomers.

There will not be enough younger workers arriving to fill the gap.




Read more:
Migration helps balance our ageing population – we don’t need a moratorium


In the absence of international migration and assuming constant age-specific employment rates, the number of workers under the age of 35 will fall by over half a million between 2016 and 2026, essentially because of the small number of births in the 1990s.

It means that without migration Australia would face a labour supply crunch unlike anything it has ever faced before.

Slowing or redirecting it won’t slow congestion

The mismatch of labour demand and supply makes this an extraordinarily bad time to cut migration.

The labour market is at its hottest in Sydney and Melbourne.

Investment contracts involving new employment are signed and the construction of the new transport infrastructure promised in these cities will only increase the demand.

Logic and economic theory tell us that workers move to where the jobs are, and jobs move to where the investors invest.

If, in some way, official migration into Sydney and Melbourne was restricted, the jobs in Sydney and Melbourne would still have to be filled and would go instead to workers moving from the rest of Australia or New Zealand or temporary skilled migrants.




Read more:
Three charts on Australia’s population shift and the big city squeeze


As a result the restriction would do little to reduce population growth in these cities. It would however, strip other states and territories of the workers they need. It would make the flow of the best and brightest from Adelaide and Perth to Melbourne even bigger.

Diverting, say, 15,000 permanent skilled immigrants away from each of Sydney and Melbourne in 2019-20 would have no impact on transport congestion.

Indeed, it might make it harder to build the required infrastructure, making congestion worse.

We’ll need it to ease a painful transition

Migrants will be needed in order to smooth the looming dramatic and uncomfortable changes in the age structure of our population.

Migrants don’t only do this because they are young; they also do it because, before they themselves grow old, they have had children and grandchildren.

Net overseas migration of 200,000 per annum would give us 6.8 million more people of traditional working age by 2051 than would no net migration, but only 400,000 more people aged 65 years and over.

It would place Australia in a better position to support its aged population than any other country in the OECD.




Read more:
Tasmania can’t only rely on a growing population for an economic boost


Official studies by the International Monetary Fund, the Productivity Commission and the Treasury find that migration significantly increases income per capita and the government’s budget position.

It does put pressure on Sydney and Melbourne, but some of it can be relieved through diversion of population and investment to the satellites of these cities.




Read more:
Migration is slowing Australia’s rate of ageing, but not necessarily in the regions


This has already been happening in Victoria. Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo have each jumped into the list of Australia’s top ten urban growth centres.

The growth of Wollongong and Newcastle has been more sluggish but the NSW Premier has recently announced that NSW will be pursuing a strategy of better linkages between Sydney and its satellites.The Conversation

Peter McDonald, Professor of Demography, Centre for Health Policy, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Explainer: why is Australia adopting the global refugee compact but not the migration compact?


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A young girl protesting at a rally to bring refugees on Nauru and Manus Island to Australia.
AAP/Penny Stephens

Azadeh Dastyari, Monash University

Australia was one of 176 countries to vote in favour of the Global Compact on Refugees (refugee compact) in mid-November this year. The United Nations General Assembly will adopt it by the end of 2018.

However, Australia did not join the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (migration compact) at a conference in Morocco on December 10-11.

What are the compacts and what do they aim to do?

There is much confusion about the two compacts, with commentators often conflating the two documents. However, they are distinct agreements with differing subjects.

The term “refugee” used in the refugee compact has a specific meaning under international law. It refers to a person outside their own country who fears persecution because of their race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

As a signatory to the Refugee Convention and Refugee Protocol, Australia has particular obligations to refugees under these two treaties. The refugee compact does not replace these obligations. Instead, it is a non-binding agreement that “intends to provide a basis for predictable and equitable burden- and responsibility-sharing”.

The Refugee Compact lists four objectives. They are to:

  1. ease pressures on host countries
  2. enhance refugee self-reliance
  3. expand access to third country solutions
  4. support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity

Unlike the term “refugee”, the term “migrant” does not have a precise meaning under international law. Australia does not have any specific international legal obligations to migrants beyond respecting their human rights under the human rights treaties to which it is a party.

The migration compact does not create any new binding legal obligations on states such as Australia. Instead, it has a range of 23 objectives for safe, orderly and regular migration. These include the collection and better use of data on migration; strengthening responses to smuggling and trafficking; eliminating discrimination; using detention as a last resort; saving lives; managing borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner; addressing and reducing vulnerabilities in migration; and strengthening international cooperation.

Where did the compacts come from?

The two compacts have emerged from a need for the international community to better cooperate and respond to unprecedented numbers of people on the move, particularly into Europe. This includes refugees fleeing persecution from conflicts such as Syria.

In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the New York Declaration for Refugee and Migrants to address such concerns. The declaration contained a commitment to begin two separate tracks of negotiations: the refugee compact and the migration compact.

Australia’s response

Australia has been relatively silent on the refugee compact, but has objected to the migration compact on the grounds that it would compromise Australia’s sovereignty.

The migration compact has also been accused of failing to:

adequately distinguish between people who enter Australia illegally and those who come to Australia the right way.

In addition, Australia has cited its success with migration as a reason for its refusal to adopt the migration compact. It has stated:

when we are asked to sign up to international agreements that we believe will compromise our successful way of doing things, we will pass.

The criticisms regarding the threat to Australia’s sovereignty and the lack of distinction between categories of migrants is surprising. As has been explained by Goodwin-Gill and McAdam, it is a misrepresentation of the document.

As with the refugee compact, the migration compact does not create any binding legal obligations on states. It affirms that “within their sovereign jurisdiction, States may distinguish between regular and irregular migration status”.

Furthermore, irrespective of whether Australia signs the migration compact, it is obliged to protect the human rights of migrants under existing international law. This includes, for example, the obligation to refrain from arbitrary detention. Thus the illegality of arbitrary detention, including on Nauru and Manus Island, under international law will not change whether Australia signs the migration compact or not.

Why has Australia signed the refugee compact but not the migration compact?

The United States is the only country to vote against the Refugee Compact. In contrast, the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Dominican Republic, Chile, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia and Italy either withdrew from the migration compact negotiations or expressed reservations, often citing concerns about sovereignty as the reason.

But rather than being a real threat to sovereignty, the migration compact appears to have taken on a symbolic meaning that the refugee compact has not. Its opponents are governments with strong anti-immigration and asylum seeker policies. For such states, the migration compact has become a convenient strawman against which states can demonstrate a show of power and resistance to serve domestic political interests.

Syrian refugees at a camp at Haouch El Nabi in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon.
AAP/EPA/Wael Hamzeh

A reason why the migration compact has been used as a foil in this way may simply be in the timing. The United States has led the rejection of the migration compact. It was early to withdraw from the process. In contrast, it continued to support the refugee compact until close to the last minute.

The earlier withdrawal of the US may have contributed to the galvanisation against the migration compact. Each state rejecting the migration compact adds to its perception as problematic, even if such a characterisation is unreasonable.

There may also be a fear that signing the migration compact may lead to new binding international obligations to migrants in the future. By contrast, the refugee compact may be viewed as less of a threat since states have existing obligations to refugees under international law.

However, adopting any hypothetical additional binding legal obligations will be a choice that governments can make in the future. Signing the migration compact does not bring an obligation to sign any future binding agreements.

In addition, the reluctance to join the migration compact but vote for the refugee compact may be because of the perception that the refugee compact requires less of states. The refugee compact has been criticised for lacking concrete mechanisms for governments to take on burden and responsibility sharing.

This may be true, and is an issue that has been addressed in part in the latest version of the refugee compact, which calls for indicators that will track progress by states. But again, the non-binding nature of the agreements means that states do not have to do anything they do not wish to do.

As the opening lines of the New York Declaration attest:

since earliest times, humanity has been on the move.

Rejecting international cooperation cannot and will not stop people from fleeing danger, migrating for better economic opportunities or moving to be with loved ones.

However, without international cooperation the system is uneven, dangerous and unsustainable. The migration and refugee compacts are not perfect. But they offer countries the opportunity to do better for themselves, for those on the move and for the international community as a whole.The Conversation

Azadeh Dastyari, Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australian prime minister foreshadows cut to ‘migration settings’


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has flagged the Australian government will respond to public
pressure and cut the immigration cap, saying he has heard “loud and clear” the protests of Australians about overcrowding in the biggest cities.

“They are saying: Enough, enough, enough. The roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full. The schools are taking no more enrolments. I hear what you are saying,” Morrison said in a speech in Sydney on Monday night.

“That’s why we need to improve how we manage population growth in this country.”

Morrison said he would “move away from top-down discussions about population to set our migration intake caps.

“I anticipate that this will lead to a reduction in our current migration settings.

“This is to be expected since our current permanent intake is almost 30,000 a year below our current cap [of 190,000]. So we will look to make an adjustment as we go forward in to next year and this should not be surprising.”

When federal treasurer, Morrison was reluctant to yield to the strong pressure from the right in the Liberal party about immigration levels, although the government was actually reducing the intake in practice, while the cap remained unchanged.

But as prime minister he has increasingly been reacting to the mounting community pressure on the issue, while foreshadowing a comprehensive population policy, including the involvement of the states.

In his speech, Morrison argued the economic benefits of immigration – including temporary migrants.

But he said that far too often planners had treated population “as one amorphous blob”.

“That doesn’t work for Australia. We’re too big and diverse. Talking about average population growth is like talking about our average rainfall. It fails to recognise the different experiences and outlooks of different cities or regions.”

Morrison repeated his plan for a discussion with the states and territories about local population growth, although the Commonwealth would always retain responsibility for determining the overall intake.

The conversation should be “grounded in data, economics and community sentiment”, he said.

“A responsible population discussion cannot be arbitrarily about one number, the cap on annual permanent migration. It is certainly relevant, but you have to look at what sits behind those numbers.

“For a start, more than half the people who become permanent migrants are already here on temporary visas.

“To contemplate our permanent visa settings would also require upstream changes to how many people are coming in on temporary visas as well. The implications of this need to be understood, including by state and territory governments.”

Morrison said changes must be done in a way that ensured states wanting more people were not disadvantaged and that there were mechanisms to send new migrants to where there were jobs and services.

“Managing population change is a shared responsibility, involving all levels of government,” he said.

“It is the states who build hospitals, approve housing developments, plan roads and know how many kids will be going into their schools in the future.

“The states and territories know better than any what the population carrying capacity is for their existing and planned infrastructure and services. So I plan to ask them, before we set our annual caps.

“The old model of a single national number determined by Canberra is no longer fit for purpose.

“While the benefits of population growth are widespread – in terms of economic growth and a more skilled and enriched society – the pressure points are inevitably local and varied.

“It’s about getting the balance right and understanding there is variation between our cities and regions. So we need a more targeted and tailored approach to conversations about population.”

Morrison said he was writing to state and territory leaders for their input, and putting the population issue on the Council of Australian Governments meeting agenda. The council meets on December 12.

The states’ population plans would “feed into the setting of our migrations caps and policies for next year, ensuring that migrations is finally tied to infrastructure and services carrying capacity”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia and other countries must prioritise humanity in dealing with displaced people and migration



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The United Nations says the number of forcibly displaced persons around the world has risen to 68.5 million.
Shutterstock

Samuel Berhanu Woldemariam, University of Newcastle; Amy Maguire, University of Newcastle, and Jason von Meding, University of Newcastle

After six rounds of consultations, United Nations member states have produced the final draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).

It is preceded by the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which the UN General Assembly adopted in 2016. This was an intergovernmental declaration to initiate development of two separate global compacts: one on refugees and another on migrants.

This latest global compact document focuses on the latter issue. It lays down 23 objectives in order to establish “a cooperative framework to address migration in all its dimensions”.

Key points include securing the human rights of migrants, reducing vulnerabilities in migration, and the use of migration detention only as a last resort. The global compact also promotes “integrated, secure and coordinated” border management. Its aim is for states to cooperate rather than focus strictly on their domestic priorities.

National responses to the draft global compact

Over the last month or so, states have started to declare their positions on the draft text. Notably, these positions do not always align with how those states have conducted themselves in intergovernmental negotiations. As is often the case, tensions can arise between domestic political priorities and intergovernmental relations.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Australia would not sign the global compact in its current form. Australia is “happy to negotiate in good faith”, according to Dutton, but it will not “sign its border protection policy over to the UN”.




Read more:
Why does international condemnation on human rights mean so little to Australia?


The Hungarian government also declared its opposition and officially announced its exit from the adoption process.

These developments follow the high-profile US withdrawal from the drafting process in December 2017. At the time, the Trump administration argued that numerous provisions of the New York Declaration were “inconsistent with US immigration policy”.

As the Global Compact on Migration moves towards finalisation in December 2018, there is a chance these early challenges may snowball.

The key to Australia’s resistance

The grounds for Australia’s particular resistance to the global compact are the provisions relating to migration detention. The compact insists detention should only be used as a “last resort”. Signatories would commit to:

review and revise relevant legislation, policies and practices related to immigration detention to ensure that migrants are not detained arbitrarily, that decisions to detain are based on law, are proportionate, have a legitimate purpose, and are taken on an individual basis, in full compliance with due process and procedural safeguards, and that immigration detention is not promoted as a deterrent or used as a form of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment to migrants, in accordance with international human rights law.

Critical readings of domestic policy and practice find Australia’s behaviour in violation of some or all of the compact’s checks on migration detention.




Read more:
Offshore detention: Australians have a right to know what is done in their name


Indeed, Dutton effectively acknowledges that Australia’s practice is out of alignment with international legal standards. He notes that “we’ve fought hard for [our policies]” and “we’re not going to sign a deal that sacrifices anything in terms of our border protection”.

Multiple actors have sought to bring Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers before the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The Australian government faces allegations including crimes against humanity and torture, arising from the system of mandatory offshore immigration detention it continues to enforce.

Global forced displacement and migration challenges are unprecedented

It is clear that states typically prioritise their national interests in international relations. Arguments are often framed in such a way as to absolve states of responsibility and position vulnerable refugees and migrants as a “problem”. It is past time for this mentality to change.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently released the 2017 Global Trends Report. It confirms that the number of forcibly displaced persons around the world has risen to 68.5 million. This is 2.9 million more than reported at the end of 2016.

The estimated global migrant population is 244 million.

States’ approaches to challenges of forced displacement and migration often fail to acknowledge a sometimes competing, but always essential, consideration – the basic dignity of the human person.

The agenda of the global compact is to encourage states to prioritise human dignity. This consideration does not have to contravene sovereignty. It does not dictate that a country abolish its borders. Nor is it against measures to protect its security.

To construct a justification for state cruelty based on sovereignty is an affront to the shared objectives of member states of the UN.

The case for greater cooperation

The current scope of forced displacement and migration necessitates more rather than less cooperation. Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, stated that the “success rests on mutual trust, determination and solidarity to fulfil the 23 objectives and commitments contained in the GCM”.

Bonds of solidarity at the international level are heavily strained by the disproportionate burdens borne by a small number of receiving states. Developing countries now host 84% of the world’s refugees.

In this context, the last thing national governments should do is abandon cooperative efforts to build stronger global responses to migration and refugee protection.

The ConversationThe lives and wellbeing of millions of people depend on countries working together and prioritising humanity in their domestic policies.

Samuel Berhanu Woldemariam, PhD Candidate (Law), University of Newcastle; Amy Maguire, Senior Lecturer in International Law and Human Rights, University of Newcastle, and Jason von Meding, Senior Lecturer in Disaster Risk Reduction, University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Migration helps balance our ageing population – we don’t need a moratorium



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Cutting immigration to Australia will impact the country’s demographic composition, with consequences for the working age population and income tax base.
Andrew Seaman/Unsplash

Liz Allen, Australian National University

Australia’s population is set to reach 25 million in the coming weeks. This is much earlier than expected. Eighteen years ago, projections estimated Australia’s population wouldn’t get to 25 million until 2041.

Western Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith last week proposed a moratorium on immigration to give Australia some time to “breathe” and take stock. Claiming concerns over planning and infrastructure failing to meet population needs, Smith signalled Australia was unprepared, having relied on inaccurate population projections.

Immigration is often targeted when population levels seem out of control. But will a moratorium give Australia the supposed breathing space it needs?




Read more:
FactCheck: is Australia’s population the ‘highest growing in the world’?


Migration impacts

Concerns about immigration and a perceived population crisis have crossed over the spectrum of Australian politics. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson has called for a plebiscite on immigration, while Labor leader Bill Shorten has raised concerns about the number of temporary migrants in Australia.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said a cut to immigration numbers would have economic benefits, contradicting Treasurer Scott Morrison. And Smith’s idea to halt immigration to allow the nation’s infrastructure time to catch up with population demand is shared by prominent public figures, including Bob Carr and Dick Smith.

Australia’s population is ageing, which has potential adverse consequences for the future as proportionally more people exit the workforce, increasing reliance on a shrinking income taxpayer base. Immigration has the potential to offset these consequences of population ageing by contributing to the workforce and to government funds for essential services. Migrants also contribute to Australia’s future population by having children.

The latest available research suggests immigration levels at “about 160,000 and 210,000 seem to have the ‘best’ impact by 2050 on ageing of the population and the rate of growth of GDP per capita”.




Read more:
Bloom and boom: how babies and migrants have contributed to Australia’s population growth


Current ABS projections provide an opportunity to examine what Australia’s demographic composition could look like if net overseas migration was zero, 200,000 (low), 240,000 (middle) or 280,000 (high) per year.

Based on 2011 census data, and medium-range assumptions for fertility and life expectancy, the 2013 (medium range) projections are tracking well with current estimates. These projections provide an indication of the impact of migration, measured as net overseas migration. Net overseas migration reflects the balance of incoming and outgoing movements and includes both permanent and temporary migration.

The four ABS scenarios show varying population numbers over the medium to long term. The higher the net overseas migration level, the bigger the population over the projected years. Interestingly, though, while zero net overseas migration would result in a reduction in population by the year 2070, the population would still continue to grow in the medium term due to natural increase (births minus deaths).


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Population composition is an important indicator to consider, rather than size alone. Age distribution is essential to understanding the fiscal opportunities and challenges a population faces.

Comparing the four net overseas migration scenarios illustrates the important contribution migration makes to Australia. The so-called dependency burden – the ratio of the number of children (0-14
years old) and older people (65 years or over) to the working-age population (15-64 years old) – is higher for zero and low net migration levels.

The current rate of net migration provides the middle ground in balancing population age structure and growth.


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Population projections

Planners need to know expected population size and growth to ensure adequate services and provisions. The ABS has produced projections for national and sub-national populations since 1950.

Population inquiries throughout Australia’s history have consistently called on such statistics to enable the country’s responsiveness and preparedness to accommodate numbers. Australia hasn’t set any population targets, mainly to avoid coercive population measures (such as mandating birth rates) and to allow flexibility in government policy, particularly around immigration intake.




Read more:
Australia doesn’t have a population policy – why?


Estimating population size and growth into the future is about what might be (projection) and not what will be (forecast). So population projections are not predictions; they’re calculations of potential future populations based on assumptions about possible births, deaths and migration.

The “best-before-date” for population projections is considered to be around 5-10 years from the initial base year of calculation. This is why projections should be regularly updated based on best available population data (the census and vital statistics) to ensure assumptions reflect births, deaths and migration trends.

Australia is one part of the global community. Cutting immigration to Australia will impact the demographic composition of the country, with consequences for the working-age population and income tax base.

Any changes to the migration program should be considered alongside evidence. Available evidence shows Australia’s current migration program intake (190,000) is about right for Australia.

The ConversationAustralia doesn’t need a moratorium. What we need is a respectful, open and evidence-based population discussion.

Liz Allen, Demographer, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

FactCheck: is Australia’s population the ‘highest growing in the world’?


Liz Allen, Australian National University

We’re the highest growing country in the world – with 1.6% increase, and that’s double than a lot of other countries.

– One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, interview on Sky News Australia, May 9, 2018

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has proposed a plebiscite be held in tandem with the next federal election to allow voters to have “a say in the level of migration coming into Australia”.

Hanson has suggested cutting Australia’s Migration Programme cap from the current 190,000 people per year to around 75,000-100,000 per year.

On Sky News, Hanson said Australia is “the highest growing country in the world”.

The senator added that at 1.6%, Australia’s population growth was “double [that of] a lot of other countries”.

Are those statements correct?

Checking the source

In response to The Conversation’s request for sources and comment, a spokesperson for Pauline Hanson said the senator “talks about population growth in the context of our high level of immigration because in recent years, immigration has accounted for around 60% of Australia’s population growth”.

The spokesperson added:

Australian Bureau of Statistics migration data for 2015-16 show that Australians born overseas represent 28% of the population, far higher than comparable countries like Canada (22%), UK (13%) or the US (14%).

World Bank data for 2017 show that Australia’s population growth was 1.6%, much higher than comparable countries with immigration programs like Canada (1.2%), the UK (0.6%) and the US (0.7%).


Verdict

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was correct to say Australia’s population grew by 1.6% in the year to June 2017. But she was incorrect to say Australia is “the highest growing country in the world”.

According to the most accurate international data, the country with the fastest growing population is Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula.

Senator Hanson said Australia’s 1.6% population growth was “double than a lot of other countries”. It is fair to say that Australia’s population growth rate is double that of many other countries, including the United States (0.7%) and United Kingdom (0.7%), for example.

Since Hanson’s statement, Australia’s population growth rate for the period ending June 2017 has been revised upwards to 1.7%. But Hanson’s number was correct at the time of her statement, and the revision doesn’t change the outcome of this FactCheck.

In terms of the 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Luxemberg was the fastest growing country in 2016, with Australia coming in fifth.

Caution must be used when making international population comparisons. It’s important to put the growth rates in the context of the total size, density and demographic makeup of the population, and the economic stage of the country.


How do we calculate population growth?

A country’s population growth, or decline, is determined by the change in the estimated number of residents. Those changes include the number of births and deaths (known as natural increase), and net overseas migration.

In Australia, both temporary and permanent overseas migrants are included in the calculation of population size.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Australia’s population grew by 1.6% in the year to June 2017 – as Senator Hanson said.

Since Hanson’s statement, Australia’s population growth rate for the period ending June 2017 has been revised upwards to 1.7%. But as said in the verdict, Hanson’s number was correct at the time of her statement, and the revision doesn’t change any of the other outcomes of this FactCheck.

That’s an increase of 407,000 people in a population of 24.6 million.

All states and territories saw positive population growth in the year to June 2017, with Victoria recording the fastest growth rate (2.4%), and South Australia recording the slowest growth rate (0.6%).




Read more:
FactCheck: is South Australia’s youth population rising or falling?


Is Australia’s population the ‘highest growing in the world’?

No, it’s not.

There are different ways of reporting population data.

Population projections are statements about future populations based on certain assumptions regarding the future of births, deaths and migration.

Population estimates are statistics based on data from a population for a previous time period. Population estimates provide a more accurate representation of actual dynamics.

World Bank data for 2016 (based on population estimates) provide us with the most accurate international comparison.

According to those data, Australia’s growth rate – 1.5% for 2016 – placed it at 86th in the world. The top 10 ranked countries grew by between 3-5%.

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How does Australia’s growth compare to other OECD countries?

Comparison of Australia’s average annual population growth with other OECD countries shows Australia’s rate of population growth is among the highest in the OECD, but not the highest.

This is true whether we look at annual averages for five year bands between 1990 and 2015, or single year data.

Looking again at the World Bank data, Australia’s rate of population growth for 2016, at 1.5%, was double that of many other OECD countries, including the United Kingdom (0.7%) and United States (0.7%).

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Permanent vs temporary migration levels

Hanson has proposed a national vote on what she describes as Australia’s “run away rates of immigration”.

The senator has suggested reducing Australia’s Migration Programme cap from the current level of 190,000 people per year to 75-100,000 people per year. The expected intake of 190,000 permanent migrants was not met over the last few years. Permanent migration for 2017-18 has dropped to 162,400 people, due to changes in vetting processes.

The greatest contribution to the growth of the Australian population (63%) currently comes from overseas migration, as Hanson’s office noted in their response to The Conversation.

The origin countries of migrants are becoming more diverse, posing socioeconomic benefits and infrastructure challenges for Australia.

Sometimes people confuse net overseas migration (the total of all people moving in and out of Australia in a certain time frame), with permanent migration (the number of people who come to Australia to live). They are not the same thing.

Net overseas migration includes temporary migration. And net overseas migration is included in population data. This means our population growth reflects our permanent population, plus more.

Temporary migrants are a major contributor to population growth in Australia – in particular, international students.

In the most recent data (2014-15), net temporary migrants numbered just under 132,000, a figure that included just over 77,000 net temporary students.

The international student market is Australia’s third largest export.

Looking back at Australia’s population growth

Population changes track the history of the nation. This includes events like post-war rebuilding – including the baby boom and resettlement of displaced European nationals – to subsequent fluctuations in birth rates, and net overseas migration.

We can see these events reflected in the rates of growth from 1945 to the present.

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The rate of population growth in Australia increased markedly in 2007, before peaking at 2.1% in 2009 (after the height of the global financial crisis, in which the Australian economy fared better than many others).

Since 2009, annual population growth has bounced around between a low of 1.4% and a high of 1.8%.

The longer term average for population growth rates since 1947 is 1.6% (the same as it is currently).

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Interpreting population numbers

It’s worth remembering that a higher growth rate per annum coming from a lower population base is usually still lower growth in terms of actual numbers of people, when compared to a lower growth rate on a higher population base.

There can also be significant fluctuations in population growth rates from year to year – so we need to use caution when making assessments based on changes in annual rates.

Economic factors, government policies, and special events are just some of the things that can influence year-on-year population movements.

Other factors we should consider when making international comparisons include the:

  • total size of the population
  • population density
  • demographic composition, or age distribution, of the population, and
  • the economic stage of the country (for example, post industrialisation or otherwise).

Any changes to the migration program should be considered alongside the best available research. – Liz Allen


Blind review

The FactCheck is fair and correct.

The statement about Australia’s population growth rate over the year to June 30, 2017, is correct. The preliminary growth rate published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at the time of Senator Hanson’s statement was 1.60%; the rate was subsequently revised to 1.68%.

It is also true that many developed countries have lower population growth rates than Australia, but some have higher rates. According to United Nations Population Division population estimates, Oman had the fastest growing population between 2014 and 2015 (the latest data available).

With regards to misinterpretations of net overseas migration, it should also be stated that some people think this refers to the number of people migrating to Australia. It is actually immigration minus emigration – the difference between the number arriving and the number leaving. – Tom Wilson


The Conversation FactCheck is accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network.

The Conversation’s FactCheck unit was the first fact-checking team in Australia and one of the first worldwide to be accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the US. Read more here.

The ConversationHave you seen a “fact” worth checking? The Conversation’s FactCheck asks academic experts to test claims and see how true they are. We then ask a second academic to review an anonymous copy of the article. You can request a check at checkit@theconversation.edu.au. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.

Liz Allen, Demographer, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Migrants are healthier than the average Australian, so they can’t be a burden on the health system



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Increasing numbers of migrants will inevitably have an impact on Australia’s health system.
from shutterstock.com

Santosh Jatrana, Swinburne University of Technology

Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life, and sorting myths from facts can be difficult. This article is part of our series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate.


Developed economies, including Australia, have increasingly been using international migration to compensate for demographic trend and skill shortages. Australia has one of the highest proportion of overseas-born people in the world: an estimated 26% of the total resident population was born overseas. This is expected to increase over the next decade.

So the health of immigrants and their use of health services are having increasing impacts on demands on the health system, its responsiveness, and the national health profile.

The proportion of older people relative to young and working-age populations is increasing in Australia.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

One of the most significant demographic trends in Australia today is the ageing of the population. This is an increase in the share of older people – defined as people aged 65 and older – relative to the youth (0 to 14 years) and working-age population (15 to 64 years). One in six Australians is now over 65, compared to one in seven in 2011 and only one in 25 in 1911.

The reasons for this trend are complex. These include the impact of the “baby boomer” generation and declines in fertility and mortality, combined with an increase in life expectancy.

Older people are living longer, which is an achievement of our health system. But an increase in life expectancy and decline in the death rate have created a paradoxical situation in which these older people have increased the country’s rates of illness and disability. This has led to a rise in health-care costs and an increase in use of health services, as well as hospitalisation.

While an ageing population adds to the burden on the health system, an intake of migrants who are generally young and healthier than the average Australian, due to their selectivity, might help balance this out. So, in fact, increasing migration would be of benefit to Australia’s health.

Australian immigrants are healthy

Australia uses something called the “points system” to determine the eligibility of most of those who apply to immigrate here. Points are given for productivity-related factors such as language, education, age (more points are given to younger applicants) and skills.

But it is reasonable to assume the points system would not apply to English migrants who arrived before the abandonment of the White Australian policy in 1973 and to New Zealand migrants. Together, these two groups make up a large proportion of the migrants from English-speaking countries. The points system also does not apply to those who migrate under the family, special eligibility, and humanitarian and refugee programs.

Having said that, skilled migrants selected under a points-based system make up most (around 68%) of all migrants in Australia. The rest (32%) taken in under the migration program come in through having a family member here.

Migrant doctors make up a large part of the Australian workforce.
from shutterstock.com

Skilled migrants (and in many cases, their dependants) go through medical screening to meet minimum health requirements. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection specifies that, to meet the health requirement, an applicant must be free of a health condition that is:

  • considered to be a threat to public health or a danger to the Australian community
  • likely to result in significant health care and community service costs to the Australian community
  • likely to require health care and community services that would limit the access of Australian citizens and permanent residents to those services as these are already in short supply.

Humanitarian migrants have a health waiver provision, but they make up a very small proportion of the total migration program.

Research has shown that immigrants tend to have better health status that the Australia-born populations. This health advantage narrows significantly over time, leading to their health becoming similar to that of Australians.

Migrants’ contribution to the workforce

Immigrants make up a substantial part of the health workforce in Australia. The international movement of health professionals is a major component of migration. Australia has been dependent on international medical graduates for a long time.

For example, according to an estimate by the Department of Health and Ageing, international medical graduates comprise about 39% of the medical workforce in Australia and 46% of general practitioners in rural and remote locations. Another estimate suggests 53% of medical practitioners in Australia are foreign-trained.

The dependence on international doctors will likely be maintained in future for a variety of reasons, such as to redress medical workforce maldistribution. Given Australia’s ageing patient and practitioner base and some key areas of the health workforce already in very short supply, this contribution of migrants is significant for Australia’s health profile.

Monitoring the health and well-being of immigrants is important for the overall health and public health systems in Australia. The issue of migrant health has become additionally important because the goal of Australia’s migration program has moved towards meeting the labour market needs of the economy. Good health is essential to fully realise the social and economic potential of immigrants.

We must also continue to collect and examine data on the health care needs and health service utilisation of Australian-born and foreign-born patients. Finally, we must educate ourselves about important contributions migrants make to ensure informed decisions are made to protect the public health system.


The ConversationYou can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here.

Santosh Jatrana, Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow, Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New to Australia? Good luck! Migrants can no longer afford ‘gateway’ suburbs



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Migrants can no longer afford to live in the ‘gateway’ suburbs that once helped them to leave the ranks of the ‘disadvantaged’ and feel at home in their new country.
Jack Wright/flickr, CC BY-NC

Hazel Easthope, UNSW and Wendy Stone, Swinburne University of Technology

The concentration of disadvantaged people in certain parts of cities is almost always seen as undesirable by urban researchers and policymakers. But is this always the case? The Conversation

Our research demonstrates that it isn’t. Concentrations of people who are often classified as “disadvantaged” – namely newly arrived humanitarian refugees and their families – can have significant positive outcomes. This is because such “gateway suburbs”, while housing large numbers of disadvantaged people, are not disadvantaged places.

Auburn is 19km west of the Sydney CBD.

As part of a broader research project, we chose two suburbs that were identified as disadvantaged and characterised by high numbers of immigrants. We spoke with residents and local service providers about their experiences, place changes over time and current settlement opportunities for newly arriving migrants. The suburbs we chose were Auburn in Sydney and Springvale in Melbourne.

Springvale is 23km south-east of the Melbourne CBD.

Auburn and Springvale may have high concentrations of disadvantaged people, as defined by Australian Bureau of Statistics data (in terms of income, employment and language proficiency in particular). But they are not disadvantaged places.

These suburbs are well serviced by public transport and are within reasonable commuting distance of their cities’ CBDs. They have a plethora of social and community services, along with a good selection of shops and services catering to the local community.

Historically, these suburbs have been major hubs for providing resources and support to new and established migrant communities.

A bottom-up community structure

In both suburbs, the presence of “first-wave” migrant groups during years of intensive manufacturing after the second world war, and the immigration encouraged to support this, promoted the development of migrant support services. Government subsidised some of these. Many grew more organically through community relationships and support needs.

With the decline of manufacturing from the late 1970s and changing immigration policies, government support has retracted in these areas. This has been accompanied by a winding back of government support for housing and a rapidly changing housing market.

The legacy of these areas has meant that both Auburn and Springvale continue to have high degrees of amenity and social and economic infrastructure. This includes a high concentration of grassroots community groups. These provide support to recent immigrants in general and refugees in particular.

‘There is a fantastic array of support services out there.’ – Auburn interviewee.
Author provided

These are good places to live. But there are signs this is changing.

Broader changes in urban housing markets and migration policies, and economic and labour market restructuring, are beginning to undermine the benefits for immigrants settling in these areas. Increasingly unaffordable housing, reduced employment opportunities in low-skilled jobs and the erosion of government support for newly arrived immigrants mean migrants are at risk of greater disadvantage than in the past.

In particular, housing costs are increasing rapidly in Auburn and Springvale. While private market housing has successfully housed new migrants in the past, this is no longer the case. Many migrants can no longer afford to live in these areas, except in overcrowded or otherwise unsatisfactory living conditions.

Rental stock is in bad disrepair. Refugees and recent arrivals go into these houses and real estate agents are slow to act on people living in substandard conditions and are reluctant to do anything about it. – Springvale interviewee

Today, the choice new migrants face is whether to live in unsatisfactory conditions in these areas, or to move to more affordable areas with fewer facilities and support services.

If similar processes are at play in other migrant gateway suburbs, and we suspect they are, this has important implications for Australia’s ability to continue its role as an immigrant destination country.

In the context of recent shifts in Australian immigration policy away from humanitarian and family migrants and towards skilled and student migrants, this is perhaps not a government priority. But it should be.

Left to fend for yourself

Far from being something to celebrate, that new “disadvantaged” migrants are finding it increasingly difficult to live together in places like Auburn and Springvale is something we should be worried about.

As they are pushed out into more dispersed areas with more insecure housing, recent arrivals are also pushed away from areas with the services and amenities that might help them leave the ranks of the “disadvantaged” and become the “new Australians” who have, until recently at least, been much celebrated.

We have been replacing housing, employment and migrant settlement policy supports with a fend-for-yourself “good luck!” approach in an unaffordable housing market.

In a market dominated by more than 95% private ownership or rental, this poses new risks for those choosing Australia as their home. It introduces further complexity for organisations trying to support successful integration as they work across dispersed locations.

Ultimately, these developments create the risk that Australian society will miss out on the enduring cultural, social and economic contributions made by migrants who choose to call Australia home.

Hazel Easthope, Senior Research Fellow, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW and Wendy Stone, Associate Professor; Director, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia has kept disabled migrant children out for decades – it’s time we gave them protection instead


Ruth Balint, UNSW

Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke recently intervened to allow a 16-year-old girl with autism spectrum disorder, who had been ordered to leave Australia, to stay in the country. The Conversation

Sumaya Bhuiyan had been living in Australia for eight years, but was rejected for permanent residency in 2013. Her mother, a practising doctor in Sydney, told newspapers the immigration department had found Sumaya’s “moderate developmental delay” would be a burden to taxpayers.

Hawke’s personal intervention followed media coverage of the situation and a change.org petition that received nearly 38,000 signatures.

This isn’t the first time a minister intervened to prevent deportation of a family who have a dependent with a disability. In 2015, a Bangladeshi couple – also two doctors – with an autistic son had their application to stay in Australia approved.

For two years the Banik family exhausted all other avenues against the rejection of their autistic son for permanent residency. Their only recourse was to appeal directly to the immigration minister to intervene on compassionate grounds. After a widespread public appeal, Peter Dutton decided to let them stay.

Australia’s immigration laws require migrants to be screened for medical conditions. This is to prove they will not be a “burden” on the community, specifically its health services. Children are most affected by this policy, as costs are calculated over a lifetime.


Australia is causing significant mental harm to children in detention.

For someone found to be “burdensome”, the outcome isn’t always as positive as for Sumaya and the Baniks. A dozen or so families or their disabled members are deported from Australia every year.

Australian policies

Democracies have a long history of excluding people deemed undesirable as migrants. Those considered to have mental or physical disabilities are targeted most forcefully.

Australia has done little to ameliorate restrictions on disability in immigration policy. This is despite a 2010 parliamentary inquiry into the issue that recommended several changes to loosen them.

The chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration said at the time:

Australia needs a modern migration health assessment, with scope to positively recognise individual or overall family contributions to Australia and that takes into consideration development of contemporary medicine and social attitudes.

The Migration Act was amended in 1958 to remove restrictions based on race. But the health clause excluding people with disabilities remained. Despite ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the government ensured the Migration Act remained exempt from its own 1992 Disability Discrimination Act.

This means immigration is effectively quarantined from these national and international human rights instruments. The result is often that all able-bodied family members will receive permission to migrate to Australia, or gain permission to stay if they are already here, while a disabled child is refused. Families are either broken up or forced to leave.

The public has little awareness of this issue, due in part to the secrecy surrounding the formulation of migration criteria and policy.

The truly tragic dimensions of the issue were exposed most forcefully in the case of Sharaz Kiane in 2001. Kiane set himself on fire outside Parliament House in Canberra in protest of the government refusing him a visa. This seems to have been based on the fact his 10-year-old daughter had disabilities that required expensive medical treatment.

Kiane died of his injuries. An Ombudsman’s report described the history of Kiane’s case as “one of administrative ineptitude and of broken promises”.

A history of exclusion

My research has explored stories of families who gave up their disabled children in the period after the second world war. They often did this under duress to forge new lives in countries like Australia, the US and Canada.

They were known as Displaced Persons, mainly of eastern European origin. Most had survived Nazi concentration camps and forced labour schemes. Displaced Persons’ migration to the few western countries available for resettlement was complicated by the requirements of various migration schemes.

Displaced Persons’ migration to the few western countries available for resettlement was complicated by the requirements of various migration schemes.
Wikimedia Commons

These were largely created to satisfy the labour demands of postwar economies. Physical fitness for manual work was the most important factor in assessing potential migrants for countries like Australia and Canada. Single, able-bodied men were therefore most desirable.

In family units, dependants were not allowed to outnumber breadwinners. Despite the proclaimed motives of rescue and humanitarianism towards Nazism’s victims, western migrant selection missions carefully checked each displaced person for traces of physical or mental damage. They excluded anyone who didn’t meet the strict requirements.

Many survivors of concentration camps and Nazi forced labour were rejected, as were the elderly and handicapped. A mass check of more than 100,000 displaced persons in 1948, for example, revealed half of them were still suffering from the effects of malnutrition and hardship.

Children who were disabled were also categorically rejected, often forcing parents with other children to make drastic decisions. Moral pressure by allied welfare workers to institutionalise disabled children contributed to children being left behind in Europe by families who emigrated.

The break-up of families is a relatively well-known consequence of Nazi Germany’s policies of forced labour, population transfers and liquidations. There has been far less recognition of the ways western governments furthered these separations through immigration policies that ignored postwar humanitarian ideals.

What now for Australia?

An irony is while Australia is actively excluding those classified as a burden because of their disability, it is disabling people by its policy of offshore detention.

As has been widely documented, children detained in Australia’s remote offshore detention centres suffer from sexual and physical assault. Some have self–harmed or threatened suicide.

Research also shows that children who spend time in immigration detention are often plagued by nightmares, anxiety, depression and poor concentration. They may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder for many years after the experience.

The protection of children is often hailed as the strongest evidence of a civilised society. This claim cannot, at present, be held by Australia if its most vulnerable members – children who are refugees and who might require first-world care because they are disabled – are being actively discriminated against in the name of an impoverished calculus of burden, cost and contribution.

Ruth Balint, Senior Lecturer in History, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.