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Australia’s young migrants ease ageing population pressure

26 June 20190 comments

Australia has succeeded in shrinking the median age of its migrant population to 44, according to the latest round of migration statistics released in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census for 2019.


Particularly stark is the difference between post-war migration groups such as Italians, who now have a median age of 71, and current-day migration such as from India and China, both at 34.


While Australian-born residents are still younger overall at 34, the report indicates the advantages of bringing in migrants in the age brackets exhibited by the Chinese and Indian groups because they generally will have children – further reduced the nation’s median age. 


The statistics come as discussion around the impact of immigration on population and demographics becomes increasingly contentious, as Australia consistently outstrips its population growth predictions. 


In the resulting search for answers, decreasing migration has been widely offered as a way to slow the growth while infrastructure catches up.


Politicians from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to Pauline Hanson and former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have raised these concerns about our intake with varying levels of intensity, and the coalition government has responded by cutting the immigration cap and instigating policy changes in its management.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has, however, reasserted the positive impact of migration on demographics.


“Without migration, Australia’s workforce would be shrinking by 2020. With migration, the Productivity Commission estimates that labour force participation will be around 10 per cent higher in 2060,” said Mr Morrison.

This underlying concept is supported by projections made by the ABS using 2011 Census data, suggesting that the percentage of our population depending on support would exceed 75 per cent by 2060 without migration. 


In the accompanying ABS graphs, each rise in migration is shown to further aid in avoiding what is a very difficult economic situation, as seen in Japan, where an ageing population is having significant negative impacts on GDP.


The same set of projections from the ABS asserts that immigration has a powerful impact on our population growth. Without it, Australia is not expected to exceed 25 million people, while current levels would suggest a steady increase over the next fifty years to around 40 million.


The evidence shows that migration has significant impact on population growth as well as positive impact in stalling the effects of an ageing population.


ABS data shows Australia took 10 per cent fewer migrants in the past year compared to the previous 12 months – the lowest number in a decade.


Governments are faced with a dilemma over population policy. Some groups argue that high migration equals urban congestion, low wages and youth unemployment.

Other groups say migration is a key economic driver and cutting it too much risks bringing on a recession.


Decisions on migration policy are being made in real time and their effects could be crucial given Australia’s faltering economy.


The current government has imposed a cap of 160,000, saying it has reduced migration by 30,000. In reality, the number is approximately the same as actually accepted last year.