We’ll be a Nation of New Migrants

Nick Gardner, Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), April 18, 2010

THE Australian-born family will become a minority group within 15 years–outnumbered by a surging wave of migrants from Europe and Asia.

Figures from demographic consultants Macroplan Australia show record overseas migration and an ageing population mean migrant families will overtake the number of locally born residents by 2025–far sooner than previously imagined.

The news will infuriate some Australian citizens, who claim the population is already too big and infrastucture is buckling under the strain.

According to 2006 census data, 40 per cent of the nation’s population was either born overseas or had at least one parent who was born abroad.

But at present immigration levels, that proportion will jump to more than 50 per cent by 2025.

The news comes a few days after the appointment of Tony Burke as Australia’s first population minister

He faces the task of managing the influx of migrants, which is expected to swell the population from 22 million today to 36 million by 2050.

As Mr Burke was sworn in, a survey of 3000 people revealed 70 per cent of Australians do not want a bigger population. Fewer than a quarter favoured immigration as the main contributor.

But experts say a migrant majority will be healthy for Australian culture and attitudes.

“It all adds to the cosmopolitan nature of modern Australia,” KPMG demographer Bernard Salt said. “It means our views become less blinkered, and we become more tolerant, confident, engaged, opportunistic and optimistic because we are open to new ideas, not obsessed with keeping things the same.”

Macroplan chief executive Brian Haratsis said Australians tended to “stare at our shoes and say we’re the best in the world”.

“While immigration needs to be managed with better infrastructure, we also need high immigration for sound economic reasons–if we don’t, we’ll all end up paying higher taxes.”

Dr Bob Birrell, co-director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research and reader in sociology at Monash University, said the ratio of foreign-born residents was already higher in Sydney and Melbourne because they were the two most popular destinations for new arrivals.

“We’re getting lots more Indian and Chinese immigrants coming to study, but many of those will end up settling here,” Dr Birrell said.

The Federal Government estimates that cutting immigration from 280,000 to its target of 180,000 will result in a population of 36 million by 2050.

But it also means the number of working taxpayers will halve in relation to the number of people aged over 65.

Most migrants come from Britain (14.2 per cent), followed by New Zealand (11.4 per cent), India (11.2), China (10.5) South Africa (5.3) and the Philippines (4.1).

Mr Salt said there would be more Iraqi and Afghan migrants.

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