Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
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Migrants and refugees contributing to tax revenue and business activity – ABS

14 November 20160 comments

Migrants to Australia are among the highest earners and largest per capita contributors to tax revenues, according to the latest Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

The figures also show refugees are the most successful business people of all newcomers to Australia.

Currently there are 1.3 million permanent migrants who arrived in Australia since 2000, according to the ABS.

About 56 per cent, or 716,793, came through the skilled migration stream; 33 per cent, or 418 553, arrived to be reunited with family; and, 11 per cent, or 138,355, arrived as humanitarian refugees.

In 2011-12 just under a million migrants were paying tax – up 11 per cent on the previous year.

Almost two thirds, or 61 per cent, of migrant taxpayers came as skilled migrants while 29 per cent came as family members, 4.8 per cent were refugees and 5.1 per cent were on provisional visas.

Migrant taxpayers earned a total of $53.4 billion in income in 2011-12, an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year. Most of this income was earned by professional stream migrants.

Most migrant taxpayers were employees earning $49 billion out of the $53.4 figure.

The median employee income of migrants in 2011-12 was $43,734 – slightly higher than the median income of all Australians, which was $43,405 – and a 5.4 per cent increase on the previous year.

Skilled migrant had a median income of $51,992 – the highest of any migrant group.

taxpayersRefugees are the most entrepreneurial. Surprisingly refugees had the highest median business income in 2011-12 at $14,402.

For the last three financial years they have had the highest median business income, exceeding migrant taxpayers from all other visa streams.

Refugees earned $1.3 billion in employee income, $149 million in business income and $14 million in investment income.

The median employee income of refugees was $27,150 – well below the national median of $43,405.

Most refugee taxpayers were from Sudan but refugees from Sierra Leone had the highest median income at $37,823.

Refugee taxpayers from Afghanistan were the most entrepreneurial earning with 28 per cent of the income or $41 million of their income through business.

Women refugees generally had lower wages than their male counterparts.

“However, there are a number of inter-related factors other than gender which are known to influence the level of earnings of males and females. Research has shown that differences in working arrangements, for example, part-time vs full-time, industry of employment and job history impacts the income males and females receive,” the ABS report says.

It says the median employee income of refugees was much lower than migrants in the skilled and family streams.

And the median wage of refugees peaks at $31,578 at around 25-34 years of age. For the older age groups it remained stable at around $30,000.

By contrast, the median wage of skilled and family stream migrants peaks at around 35-44 years of age before decreasing markedly for those aged over 50 years.

The ABS data shows a third of employed refugees are working as a labourer. It shows that the median wage for refugees working as labourers increased markedly in the first four years after arrival.

The median income of males remained between $30,000 and $35,000 for those who had been in Australia at least three years. By comparison, the median employee income for female refugees working as labourers increased gradually over time, almost reaching parity with males after 10 years.

The data shows refugees appear to be transitioning in their employment and “working their way up” into more highly skilled occupations the longer they stay in Australia.

The proportion of refugees in each skill group becomes more equal as their length of stay in Australia increased. After 10 years of residency, around 30 per cent of refugees were employed in highly skilled occupations.

The proportion of refugees whose main occupation was highly skilled increased from 19 per cent in 2010-11 to 22 per cent in 2011-12.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist