Australia’s Unsustainable Migration Path

Written by: and
18 February 2024
Australia’s Unsustainable Migration Path - Featured image

On 15 February 2024, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released data on the number of overseas arrivals to and departures from Australia up to and including the month of December 2023. Analysis of the new data on net permanent and long-term arrivals, as well as other existing data, identifies concerning trends in Australia’s present migration policy settings:

  • The 2023 calendar year was the first in history where Australia welcomed more than one million long term and permanent arrivals, at 1,091,210. By way of comparison, it took Australia ten years for the one-millionth post-Second World War migrant to arrive in Australia in 1955.
  • Net permanent and long-term arrivals in 2023 totalled 447,790, the highest on record. The second highest net arrival year was 2008, at 327,680, approximately one-quarter less than what occurred in 2023.
  • On a share of population basis, the 2023 intake was the highest since 1950, when Australia’s population surged after the Second World War.
    • In 2023, net permanent and longterm arrivals were the equivalent to 1.68 per cent of Australia’s resident population, compared with 1.85 per cent in 1950.
    • Outside the immediate post-Second World War years, the next highest yearly level was 1.54 per cent recorded in 2008. 
    • Between 1945 and 2019, annual net new permanent and long-term arrivals as a proportion of the population was 0.79 per cent, or less than half what was recorded in 2023.
  • The share of the Australian population born overseas is estimated to now be at a record 31 per cent. According to comparable data from 2020, Australia’s overseas born population is higher than other nations in the Anglosphere: New Zealand is at 29 per cent, Canada at 21 per cent, the United States at 15 per cent, and the United Kingdom at 14 per cent.

Australia is a welcoming nation and Australians recognise the important role that immigration has played and can continue to play in the nation’s economic and social development. But the failure to plan and to have in place policies to support the present intake levels undermines community support for migration and is inconsistent with the principles of a sustainable migration programme.

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