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Census data shows cultural diversity increasing

7 February 20140 comments

Australia may have truly entered the ‘Asian century’ with 2011 census data showing the fastest newly emerging ethnic communities are mostly from Asia.

The data shows migrants from India, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are forming significant newly emerging communities in Australia. Since the 2007 Census, India has replaced the United Kingdom as the source of the greatest number of overseas born recent arrivals and China has leapt ahead of New Zealand as the third largest source.

The top 10 birthplaces for longer-standing migrants included four Asian and four European countries with the United Kingdom still the largest source. But the pattern has differed for recent arrivals (those who arrived between 2007 and 2011) with India being the leading birthplace for this group with 13%. It was closely followed by the United Kingdom (12%) – traditionally top of the list and now the only European country in the top 10 birthplaces for recent arrivals.

Seven of the remaining top ten countries for recent arrivals were Asian. Recent arrivals make up a large proportion of some population groups in Australia, reflecting the increasing number of people born in Asian countries.

Recent arrivals accounted for 47% of the total Indian-born population in Australia and 35% of the total Chinese-born population. In contrast, only 11% of the total United Kingdom-born population were recent arrivals.

Country of birth groups which increased the most between 2001 and 2011 were India (up 200,000 people), China (176,200) and New Zealand (127,700).

The largest decreases were seen in the birth countries of Italy (less 33,300 people), Greece (16,500) and Poland (9,400). These decreases can be attributed to deaths and low current migration levels replenishing these groups, the census analysis papers said.

Australia now has the highest number of overseas born residents – with 27% or 5.3 million – since 1898. Another 20% had at least one parent born overseas. Among the overseas-born population, those who arrived in Australia in the past 20 years were more likely to live in a capital city that those who arrived before 1992 – (85% compared to 79%).

The census data show a continuation of the long-term decrease in affiliation to Christianity from 96% in 1911 to 61% in 2011. Although Christian religions are still predominant in Australia, there have been increases in devotees of non-Christian religions, and those reporting ‘no religion’, according to the census data.

In the past decade, the proportion of the population with an affiliation to a Christian religion decreased from 68% in 2001 to 61% in 2011. Some of the smaller Christian denominations increased over this period.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of people following a non-Christian faith increased significantly, from around 0.9 million to 1.5 million, accounting for 7.2% of the total population in 2011 – up from 4.9% in 2001.

The most common non-Christian religions in 2011 were Buddhism, accounting for 2.5% of the population, Islam (2.2%) and Hinduism (1.3%).

Of these, Hinduism had experienced the fastest growth since 2001, increasing by 189% to 275,500, followed by Islam (increased by 69% to 476,300) and Buddhism (increased by 48% to 529,000 people).

The number of people reporting ‘no religion’ also increased strongly, from 15% of the population in 2001 to 22% in 2011.

This increase is most evident among younger people, with 28% of people aged 15-34 reporting they had no religious affiliation.