Over the past year or so, I have ridiculed the new found push by some politicians towards decentralisation, noting that this is a pipe dream based on the settlement pattern of new migrants, which have overwhelmingly chosen to flood the major cities.
My view was initially based primarily on data from the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Migrant Intake into Australia report, which revealed that 86% of immigrants lived in the major cities of Australia in 2011 (mostly Sydney and Melbourne), whereas only 65% of the Australian-born population did:
Over the weekend, The ABC produced a report trumpeting that immigration is stemming the population decline in regional Australia:
Carly Jordan, a former international aid worker, was prompted by the ABC’s Australian Story to develop a sustainable model to bring migrants to Victoria.
Ms Jordan founded the Great South Coast Economic Migration Pilot as part of a regional leadership program…
One school in Hamilton is getting six new pupils through the scheme.
Mary-Ann Brown, Mayor of Southern Grampian Shire at Hamilton, said the region had good infrastructure, education and health but a declining or static population.
She said unemployment was low and there were opportunities for both unskilled and skilled migrants to work as farm labourers, joiners, nurses, doctors, accountants and solicitors.
A total of 187,000 international migrants have moved into regional areas between 2011 and 2016 helping to stop population decline at 151 Local Government Areas, according to the ABS 2016 Census.
The Regional Australia Institute said the new arrivals were helping provide stability to those communities, and ensuring long-term regional prosperity…
While I am happy for these regional areas, the fact remains that Australia’s immigration program has become more concentrated into the major cities than ever before.
The 2016 Census revealed that Australia’s population ballooned by 1.9 million people (+8.8%) in the five years to 2016, driven by a 1.3 million increase in new migrants:
So, according to the data quoted by the ABC above, only 14% (187,000) of migrants that arrived in Australia between 2011 and 2016 settled in regional areas, versus 86% of migrants (1.11 million) that settled in Australia’s cities. Indeed, as noted by the ABS:
In 2016, Sydney had the highest overseas-born population of all capital cities (1,773,496), followed by Melbourne (1,520,253) and Perth (702,545). The 2016 Census also reveals that those born overseas were more likely to live in a capital city (83%), a much higher percentage than people born in Australia.
Moreover, as noted by Tim Colebatch, the settlement pattern of new migrants into Sydney and Melbourne has become “extreme”:
It is striking how what we are seeing now differs from the first wave of postwar migration in the 1940s and early 50s. That wave was led by the British, the Dutch and the Germans, who spread right across the country and put down roots wherever they settled. Even now, the 2016 census finds that in New South Wales, 34 per cent of the British-born live outside Sydney, as do 37 per cent of Germans and 44 per cent of Dutch. Stunningly, so do 44 per cent of the Australian-born. In Victoria, the numbers are lower, but the pattern is similar.
But the second wave of migrants that followed, dominated by the Italians and Greeks, were more likely to form urban enclaves in the big cities. In Victoria, which attracted the largest share, only 10 per cent of Italian migrants and 3.4 per cent of Greeks now live outside Melbourne, much the same as a generation ago.
And the third wave of migration we are seeing now is almost completely city-centric. In Sydney on census night, the 224,685 Chinese migrants clearly outnumbered the 178,411 British – probably the first time in Australian history that British migrants have ever been outnumbered by another race in any capital city. But in the rest of New South Wales, with its 2.65 million people, the census found just 9578 Chinese migrants. Only 4.2 per cent of those in New South Wales live outside Sydney.
Sydney is also home to 96.3 per cent of the state’s Vietnamese-born population, 97.4 per cent of its Iraqi migrants, and 97.6 per cent of its Lebanese. That’s so different from the first wave of Lebanese migration a century or more ago, which spread out all over Australia, with some enterprising migrants buying horse and cart, fitting them out, and riding from station to station as the general stores of the outback.
Migrants to Victoria are similarly concentrated in Melbourne. The few square kilometres ruled by the Melbourne City Council houses four and a half times as many Chinese-born residents as the 210,000 square kilometres of regional Victoria, which includes cities like Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. Melbourne is home to 97.2 per cent of Victoria’s Chinese migrants, 96.8 per cent of its Sri Lankans, 94.9 per cent of its booming Indian-born population, and 98.0 per cent of its Vietnamese…
Migrants usually flock to the cities. It’s natural that newcomers go where they have friends or family. But what we are seeing now is that natural tendency carried to extreme lengths. The difference between the racial makeup of electorates such as Melbourne and Wannon is like a difference between countries, rather than between parts of one region. Their human makeups have little in common. It’s not surprising that their political views also have little in common.
The above data should put to rest the misguided notion that Australia could maintain a mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy but somehow spread settlement throughout Australia, thereby taking pressure off Sydney and Melbourne.
The reality is that maintaining mass immigration means that Sydney and Melbourne will continue to be crush-loaded as their populations swell by the millions, placing extreme further pressure on infrastructure and housing, and destroying living standards for incumbent residents.