China has become Australia's biggest source of migrants, for the first time eclipsing our traditional main points of origin New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The latest migration figures show a record 6350 new settlers arrived from mainland China in the four months to October, more than both the 5800 who arrived from the UK and the 4740 who came from New Zealand.
The new Chinese ascendancy owes more to a collapse in migration from the traditional sources than it does to the impressive 15 per cent annual growth in migration from China. The number of migrants from the UK is down 28 per cent over the year and the number from New Zealand down 47 per cent.
Adelaide University demographer Graeme Hugo says the global financial crisis has hit migration from our traditional sources in ways that haven't much affected China...
In March the government sliced 18,500 of the skilled migration program for 2009-10, disproportionately hitting the United Kingdom for whom skilled migrants account for 8 out of 10 flights booked. Chinese migration, dominated by family reunions, suffered less.
Professor Hugo says New Zealand migration collapsed as our neighbours across the Tasman decided to hang on to their jobs.
"Just as someone from Adelaide is likely to try to hang on to their job in the global financial crisis rather than move to Sydney or Melbourne to take their chance at a time of tightening employment, I think that would be the case in Auckland as well."
"It's an immediate response. New Zealanders don't need to apply to immigrate, there's no pipeline - that's why the response is so big."
Short-term arrivals figures also released yesterday show a change in where visitors are choosing to stay. NSW, traditionally the most popular state, has received 6 per cent fewer visitors over the past year. Victoria and Western Australia have received 9 and 15 per cent more.
At the same time the high dollar and the continuing impact of bonus payments sent a record 570,200 of Australians overseas on holiday in October, meaning that for at least some of the month 1 in every 40 of us was out of the country.
Departures climbed 20 per cent in October, swamping a 7 per cent recovery in arrivals.
New Zealand remained our most popular destination, with travel to Indonesia and the United States up an extraordinary 51 and 47 per cent on the previous year.
Travel to Malaysia jumped 50 per cent, travel to the Philippines 40 per cent, and travel to Fiji 24 per cent.
Tourism and Transport Forum executive director Brett Gale said the boom came at a cost to the local tourist industry.
“Over the past year departures have outnumbered arrivals by almost 600,000. On the one hand, it's hurting domestic tourism, but more optimistically, there's an opportunity because it has made so many new airline seats available to bring overseas visitors into Australia."
The changing face of migration
July - October 2008:
New Zealand 8890
United Kingdom 8110
July - October 2009:
United Kingdom 5800
New Zealand 4740
Source: ABS 3401.0
Published in today's SMH and Age
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