Blaming migrants won’t solve Western Sydney’s growing pains



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Many people in culturally diverse populations in Western Sydney have lived in Australia for many years, if not several generations.
Shutterstock

Shanthi Robertson, Western Sydney University and Kristine Aquino, University of Technology Sydney

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.


Western Sydney is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia. It’s also one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse, as a key arrival point for refugees and new migrants when they first settle in Australia.

Various public figures and media outlets have connected asylum-seeker intake and immigration to traffic congestion and queues at hospitals in Western Sydney.

However, this kind of reaction can pin the blame for infrastructure and affordability problems on culturally diverse populations who may have already lived in Australia for many years, if not several generations.

Growth from international and domestic migration

Greater Western Sydney includes Blacktown, the Blue Mountains, Camden,
Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield
Hawkesbury, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith, the Hills Shire and Wollondilly.

We examined census data compiled by WESTIR Ltd, a non-profit research organisation based in Western Sydney, partly funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. These data show that Greater Western Sydney’s population increased by 9.8% between 2011 and 2016. Over the decade from 2006 to 2016, it grew by 16%.

About 55% of those living there were born in Australia, and about 39% where born elsewhere (the remainder did not state their place of birth). Most put English or Australian as their first response when asked about their ancestry.

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New births are slightly down in the region, meaning growth is coming from other sources. This includes new international migration arrivals, but also incoming residents from other parts of New South Wales and interstate.

Greater Western Sydney has long-established cultural and linguistic diversity. The percentage of residents born overseas has increased from 34.1% in 2006 to 38.7% in 2016. Overall, the west accounts for 50.2% of the overseas-born population for the whole of metropolitan Sydney.

Reasoned debates on sustainable migration intake levels are a crucial part of discussions of urban and regional growth. There are valid criticisms of “Big Australia” policies, based on resource and environmental sustainability.

But while the number of new arrivals settling in Western Sydney has increased steadily since the second world war, with a significant jump over the last decade reflecting accelerated skilled migration policies to fill labour shortages, the majority of overseas-born living in the region are long-term settlers who have been in Australia for ten years or more.

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Increasing diversity does not always mean more new migrant settlers

The data show that 64% of Western Sydney residents have at least one parent born overseas. This is greater than the number of those born overseas. This correlates with national data indicating that Australian-born second-generation migrant residents outnumber those born outside of Australia.

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So while critics may look at non-white Western Sydney residents and assume they are recent migrants, what they’re often really seeing is multiple generations of multiculturalism. Most of these people are long-term local residents, not necessarily a sudden influx of new arrivals.

In addition, not all overseas-born residents are permanent settlers. Australia takes far larger numbers of temporary entrants than it has in the past. Most of these temporary visa holders, such as international students and temporary skilled workers, live in major metropolitan areas and their surrounds, like Western Sydney.

While some portion of these populations do stay on longer-term, they are not all permanent settlers who will add to long-term population growth. Net migration figures, which take into account people who depart Australia every year as well as arrive, and exclude short-term visitors, have generally been decreasing over the past six years.

Who do we define as ‘migrants’?

New Zealand citizens moving under Trans-Tasman agreements and migrants from the United Kingdom are still among the largest migrant groups in Greater Western Sydney.

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In many local government areas in Western Sydney – such as Wollondilly, the Hills Shire, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Campbelltown – England and/or New Zealand feature in the top five countries of birth of overseas-born residents.

If anxieties about migration and population in Western Sydney are based on genuine sustainability concerns and not xenophobia, why target mostly refugees and non-white migrants? Why focus only on areas with large non-white and non-English-speaking background populations?

Migrants do use infrastructure, but also drive economic and jobs growth

It’s never as simple as one new arrival “using up” an allocation of limited resources, whether jobs, housing, or seats on trains. In fact, new arrivals fill the gaps of an ageing workforce, and current migration policies are targeted to favour younger migrants and specific skills shortages.

Western Sydney, like many regions in Australia, has an ageing population. Residents aged 65-74 years increased from 6.2% in 2011 to 7.2% in 2016.

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Large-scale infrastructure – whether the slated new airport or the Westmead hospital – requires young and often skilled workers.

Nationally, recently arrived overseas-born residents have a lower median age and a higher level of education than Australian-born residents.

Infrastructure problems are also problems of policy, planning and funding, rather than just population numbers. Problems in transport and health infrastructure in Western Sydney cannot be easily solved by reactive anti-immigration attitudes or policies.

Cuts to programs like the humanitarian program or skilled temporary work visas, where the intake numbers remain relatively small as a proportion of the overall population, will not solve those infrastructure problems.

Western Sydney is growing, and with growth comes growing pains. But equating the region’s rich cultural diversity with a population crisis is the wrong message to send.


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

Shanthi Robertson, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University and Kristine Aquino, Lecturer in Global Studies, University of Technology Sydney

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

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Why a population of, say, 15 million makes sense for Australia



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Our national wellbeing probably peaked with Australia’s population at roughly 15 million in the 1970s, when this photo was taken in Hunters Hill, Sydney.
John Ward/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Peter Martin, University of South Australia; James Ward, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, University of Denver

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.


Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion, and neither currently has a policy about it. The Greens think population is an issue, but can’t come at actually suggesting a target.

Even those who acknowledge that numbers are relevant are often quick to say that it’s our consumption patterns, and not our population size, that really matter when we talk about environmental impact. But common sense, not to mention the laws of physics, says that size and scale matter, especially on a finite planet.

In the meantime the nation has a bipartisan default population policy, which is one of rapid growth. This is in response to the demands of what is effectively a coalition of major corporate players and lobby groups.

Solid neoliberals all, they see all growth as good, especially for their bottom line. They include the banks and financial sector, real estate developers, the housing industry, major retailers, the media and other major players for whom an endless increase in customers is possible and profitable.

However, Australians stubbornly continue to have small families. The endless growth coalition responds by demanding the government import hundreds of thousands of new consumers annually, otherwise known as the migration intake.

The growth coalition has no real interest in the cumulative social or environmental downside effects of this growth, nor the actual welfare of the immigrants. They fully expect to capture the profit of this growth program, while the disadvantages, such as traffic congestion, rising house prices and government revenue diverted for infrastructure catch-up, are all socialised – that is, the taxpayer pays.

The leaders of this well-heeled group are well insulated personally from the downsides of growth that the rest of us deal with daily.

A better measure of wellbeing than GDP

The idea that population growth is essential to boost GDP, and that this is good for everyone, is ubiquitous and goes largely unchallenged. For example, according to Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report:

Economic growth will be supported by sound policies that support productivity, participation and population — the ‘3Ps’.

If one defines “economic growth” in the first place by saying that’s what happens when you have more and more people consuming, then obviously more and more people produce growth.

The fact that GDP, our main measure of growth, might be an utterly inadequate and inappropriate yardstick for our times remains a kooky idea to most economists, both in business and government.

Genuine progress peaked 40 years ago

One of the oldest and best-researched alternative measures is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Based on the work of the American economist Herman Daly in the 1970s and ’80s, GPI takes into account different measures of human wellbeing, grouped into economic, environmental and social categories.

Examples on the negative side of the ledger include income inequality, CO2 emissions, water pollution, loss of biodiversity and the misery of car accidents.

On the positive side, and also left out of GDP, are the value of household work, parenting, unpaid child and aged care, volunteer work, the quality of education, the value of consumer goods lasting longer, and so on. The overall GPI measure, expressed in dollars, takes 26 such factors into account.

Since it is grounded in the real world and our real experience, GPI is a better indicator than GDP of how satisfactory we find our daily lives, of our level of contentment, and of our general level of wellbeing.

As it happens, there is quite good data on GPI going back decades for some countries. While global GDP (and GDP per capita) continued to grow strongly after the second world war, and continues today, global GPI basically stalled in 1970 and has barely improved since.

In Australia the stall point appears to be about 1974. GPI is now lower than for any period since the early 1960s. That is, our wellbeing, if we accept that GPI is a fair measure of the things that make life most worthwhile, has been going backwards for decades.

What has all the growth been for?

It is reasonable to ask, therefore, what exactly has been the point of the huge growth in GDP and population in Australia since that time if our level of wellbeing has declined.

What is an economy for, if not to improve our wellbeing? Why exactly have we done so much damage to our water resources, soil, the liveability of our cities and to the other species with which we share this continent if we haven’t really improved our lives by doing it?

As alluded to earlier, the answer lies to a large extent in the disastrous neoliberal experiment foisted upon us. Yet many Australians understand that it is entirely valid to measure the success of our society by the wellbeing of its citizens and its careful husbandry of natural capital.

At the peak of GPI in Australia in the mid-1970s our population was under 15 million. Here then, perhaps, is a sensible, optimal population size for Australia operating under the current economic system, since any larger number simply fails to deliver a net benefit to most citizens.

It suggests that we have just had 40 years of unnecessary, ideologically-driven growth at an immense and unjustifiable cost to our natural and social capital. In addition, all indications are that this path is unsustainable.

With Australian female fertility sitting well below replacement level, we can achieve a slow and natural return to a lower population of our choice without any drastic or coercive policies. This can be done simply by winding back the large and expensive program of importing consumers to generate GDP growth – currently around 200,000 people per year and forecast to increase to almost 250,000 by 2020.

Despite endless political and media obfuscation, this is an entirely different issue from assisting refugees, with whom we can afford to be much more generous.


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

Peter Martin, Lecturer, School of Natural & Built Environments, University of South Australia; James Ward, Lecturer in Water & Environmental Engineering, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver

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

Australia doesn’t have a population policy – why?



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Despite expert recommendations to adopt a population policy, Australian governments continue to resist.
Scott Cresswell/flickr , CC BY

Liz Allen, Australian National University

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


Australia lacks an overarching population policy or strategy. Over the years, multiple inquiries have recommended such a policy. Population policies the world over typically focus on births and migration.

As part of post-war reconstruction, Australia adopted a 2% population growth target. Mass immigration was a defining feature, and couples were called on to populate or perish. Immigration was successful, but women were big losers in the push for births.

The 1975 National Population Inquiry proved a significant moment in Australian demography. The inquiry found that Australia should not seek to influence population, but should anticipate and respond.

Population policy was revisited in the 1990s with the National Population Council. Its 1994 report found no optimal population size for Australia, but again called for a responsive population policy of preparedness.

Interest in sustainable population policy was renewed in 2010 following Kevin Rudd’s infamous endorsement of a “big Australia”. We even had a minister for population, Tony Burke, for about six months until the portfolio was expanded. Population was subsequently dropped from any ministerial title.

After an exhaustive inquiry, A Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia was released in 2011. This stopped short of recommending a population policy but removed any option of population limits. Change felt possible in shifting the narrative to a proactive endeavour concerning population matters, particularly evident in the National Urban Policy.

Despite such inquiries and recommendations to adopt a population policy, governments have so far resisted. Unsuccessful attempts at population policy can be understood in terms of difficulties in gaining political support and concerns about coercion.

But national population policy need not be coercive – unlike, for example, in India or China. Instead, it can be a series of targets and connected policy domains with oversight.

Presently, the policy landscape is disjointed. Parenting leave, family and childcare payments, and immigration are each somewhat responsive to population changes, but not prepared. Family payments have been shown not to increase birth rates.

Births, deaths, migration – and taxes

The intergenerational reports have been our only glimpse of responsiveness and preparedness. But these have increasingly been criticised for their political tone. Who could forget the Challenge of Change campaign?

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki fronted the Challenge of Change campaign.

What we know is that Australia’s population continues to age, so among the nation’s pressing issues is fewer taxpayers. The total age-related dependency ratio, of people aged over and under working age relative to the working-aged population, was 52 per 100 people in 2016.

While the child-dependency rate (0-14 year olds) is higher than the aged-dependency rate (people 65 and over), the rate of people aged less than 15 has steadily declined as the population aged 65 and over has driven increases in the so-called dependency burden.


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The relative increase in people older than working age is increasing pressure on the economy and government budgets. While government spending on young people is substantial, the highest per person spending is among people aged 65 and over.

A robust workforce contributing income tax and services is essential to ensure current lifestyles are afforded to the young while also sustaining the public spending necessary for people over 65 years who have over their lives contributed to the nation.

With birth rates low and deaths increasing, natural increase is no longer driving Australia’s population. Immigration is increasingly relied on to offset the ageing of the workforce. Over half (54%) of Australia’s population growth is from net overseas migration.


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Preparing for an older population

In a 2013 United Nations survey, the Australian government reported concerns about population ageing, a desire to increase the “too low” birth rate, but satisfaction with the level of net overseas migration. Interestingly, a preference for migration away from cities was also cited.

From current policy and discourse, you would not know these views were held. Most Australians also report a preference for the level of immigration to remain the same or be increased, contrary to sentiments we often hear.

Australia has time to prepare for, and make opportunities of, the challenges of an ageing population. Some countries are facing tough decisions now and it is interesting to watch the politics play out. What Japan, China and Germany show is that we need to take action now.

Insightful guides are in place already. South Australia has had a population strategy since 2004. Tasmania recently adopted one.

These state strategies focus on growth to curb economic downturn. What is important in these two cases is that both emphasise policy portfolio linkages, as well as evidence and reporting against targets without coercive measures.

What is a sensible approach to population policy?

A renewed, earnest and transparent population conversation is needed. With ever more reliance on immigration, we must go beyond the unhelpful pro-immigration versus pro-nationalism debate to consider our population prospects.

The key question is: how can Australia make opportunities of its demographic challenges?

Australia has the potential to be a global leader in innovative markets and research and development. An ageing population provides an interesting market opening; we just need to be smart about it. Without careful consideration, Australia will be merely a bystander in the increasingly competitive global market.

Policy connectedness should exist between portfolios. These include: health; housing; education, skills and training; employment; infrastructure; regional development; water and energy; environment; and migrant settlement.

We can invest more effectively in young people – our future workforce and economic lifeblood – if we consider a life-course approach to population dynamics. Family friendly, gender-equal workplaces will go a long way to ease the pressures of having children. Integral to this is affordable and accessible child care.

The ConversationAnd establishing a ministerial portfolio overseeing population strategy would be a good start.

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.

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


Nick Parr, Macquarie University

This piece is part of our new Three Charts series, in which we aim to highlight interesting trends in three simple charts. The Conversation

At around 1.5%, Australia’s current population growth rate is above the world rate of about 1.2%, and among the highest in the OECD.

Net international migration comprised about 55% of Australia’s population growth in 2015-16. Natural increase – that’s births minus deaths – makes up the rest.

Victoria is Australia’s fastest-growing state

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that, since about 2013, Victoria’s population growth rate has risen to become the highest of all the states and territories in Australia.

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Western Australia was previously the fastest-growing state but its population growth rate has fallen sharply (by about 70% since 2011-12), likely driven by the demise of the mining boom. Queensland’s growth has declined more gradually.

Victoria’s higher population growth rate is due to it having the highest per capita rate of net international migration of all the states and territories and the largest net in-movement from elsewhere in Australia.

The most important reason for Victoria’s higher rate of net international migration was its higher per capita inflow of international students. Victoria also gained more people due to permanent migration.

After 2012, the net movement of New Zealand citizens to Australia fell rapidly (by 83% in two years). Due to its fall in numbers being shallower, Victoria replaced Queensland as the state receiving the largest net inflow of New Zealand citizens.

About 68% of the precipitous drop in Western Australia’s population growth rate since 2011-12 is because international migration to that state has fallen away. Previously, more people moved to Western Australia from the other states than in the other direction. Now, that trend has reversed.

Decreased net international migration also explains most of the decrease in Queensland’s growth rate over this period.

Big city squeeze

In recent years, Australia’s population has become increasingly concentrated in its largest cities, and several big cities are growing at well above the average Australian population growth rate.

Melbourne is Australia’s most rapidly growing city, a title it wrested from Perth around 2013-14.

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Sydney’s population, which the ABS says recently reached 5 million, is also growing at above the national average rate. Net in-migration (people moving to Sydney) is the major component of Sydney’s population growth, as opposed to natural increase (births minus deaths).

Brisbane’s growth has slowed but remains above the national average. In contrast, many already sparsely settled areas in inland Australia are experiencing population decline.

The mix of overseas-born residents is changing

About 28.5% of Australia’s population was born overseas. People born in the United Kingdom are still the biggest group of overseas-born residents, making up 5% of Australia’s population. That picture is changing, however, as chart 1.2 from the ABS shows here.

The share of UK-born residents in Australia is declining, and the proportion of people born in New Zealand has grown over the last decade. Over the same period, the share of China-born residents has increased, and that’s also true for India-born residents.

Australia’s India-born resident population remain predominantly male (119 males per 100 females in 2016), although not as heavily so as previously.

In contrast to China’s male-dominated population back home, among the China-born residents in Australia females are increasingly outnumbering males (just 80 males per 100 females in 2016).

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Nick Parr, Associate Professor in Demography, Macquarie University

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

World: Half the Population Live’s Here


The link below is to an extremely interesting article and map concerning the world’s population. Well worth a look.

For more visit:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/07/map-more-than-half-of-humanity-lives-within-this-circle/

Australian Population Growing Slowly


Genetic Study Supports Genesis


An article posted at the Christian Telegraph provides a very interesting look at genetic signatures in the Jewish population. The report claims that the results of the genetic study seems to indicate support for a literal interpretation of Genesis.

Read the article at:
http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue13042.html

 

Somali Mother of Four Slaughtered for her Faith


Al Shabaab militants carry out ritual slaying of Christian found to be ‘apostate.’

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 17 (CDN) — A mother of four was killed for her Christian faith on Jan. 7 on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia by Islamic extremists from al Shabaab militia, a relative said.

The relative, who requested anonymity, said Asha Mberwa, 36, was killed at 5:15 p.m. in Warbhigly village; the Islamic extremists from the insurgent group had arrested her outside her house the previous day at 8:30 a.m. She died when the militants cut her throat in front of villagers who came out of their homes as witnesses.

She is survived by her children – ages 12, 8, 6 and 4 – and her husband, who was not home at the time she was apprehended. They had married in 1993.

Her relative, whose location is also withheld for security reasons, said he had phoned her on Jan. 5 to try to make arrangements for moving her family out of the area. Al Shabaab extremists, who control large parts of Mogadishu, were able to monitor the conversation and confirm that she had become a Christian, he said.

He told Compass by phone that Mberwa feared that she and her family members’ lives were threatened.

“Asha had been receiving threatening messages” after al Shabaab monitored her previous communications with him, he said.

Her husband, Abdinazir Mohammed Hassan, fled to an unknown location. Mberwa’s relative said a “good Samaritan” in Mogadishu was caring for her four children. The traumatized children continue to weep and cry out for their mother, he said.

Al Shabaab insurgents control much of southern and central Somalia and have embarked on a campaign to rid the country of its hidden Christian population. With estimates of al Shabaab’s size ranging from 3,000 to 7,000, the insurgents seek to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law).  

Al Shabaab was among several splinter groups that emerged after Ethiopian forces removed the Islamic Courts Union, a group of sharia courts, from power in Somalia in 2006. Said to have ties with al Qaeda, al Shabaab has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments.

The transitional government in Mogadishu fighting to retain control of the country treats Christians little better than the al Shabaab insurgents do. While proclaiming himself a moderate, President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has embraced a version of sharia that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

Report from Compass Direct News