Census data shows that we are more culturally diverse than ever. Our institutions must take this into account
The first data from the 2021 census released this week shows that Australia continues to become culturally diverse.
Almost half of us have at least one foreign-born parent (48.2%) and almost a quarter of us (24.8%) speak a language other than English at home. home.
Just over a quarter of us (27.6%) say they were born overseas, and of these, India has become the second most common country of overseas birth after England.
The growing number of first-generation migrants means the ancestry of Australians will change dramatically over the next decade. Australia will continue to change and look different, and we must ensure that our institutions and policies reflect this.
This work, by governments and policy makers, should start now so that they can gain the trust and maximize ownership of these communities. Research shows that feelings of belonging lead to better socioeconomic outcomes.
It is likely that there would have been a lot more immigration had it not been for the COVID pandemic and subsequent restrictions and closures. Some 84% of the million new migrants arrived before the virus.
Three pieces of data stood out to me from this first release of census data:
India overtook New Zealand and China to become the second most common country of overseas birth
the number of people born in Nepal increased by 123.7% compared to 2016, the second highest increase in the country of birth
the number of people born abroad or whose parent was born abroad is more than half (51.5%).
These data show the changing face of Australia and our global connections.
They also reveal suburban clusters in major cities where ethnic groups have a critical mass, median incomes are above the state and national average, and tertiary education rates are rising (e.g. Girraween and Castle Hill in New South Wales).
These figures show that social class is an important factor when looking at data on migrant populations. In areas with a higher percentage of working class migrants and resettled refugees, such as those mentioned towards the end of this article as being more affected by COVID, household incomes are lower and therefore require more consideration for future planning needs.
The top five sources of ancestry have not changed since the last census: English (33%), Australian (29.9%), Irish (9.5%), Scottish (8.6%) and Chinese (5 .5%).
But given the big shifts in country of birth data, the ancestry of Australians will look very different over the next decade.
This will have policy and planning implications on education, housing and local government services.
This will translate into the need to reflect our diversity in all aspects of society, including professions, media, decision-making roles and government.
These data also show that Australia is as multicultural, if not more so, than countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Data from the 2016 census in Canada, which is known to be multicultural, shows that 21.9% of people there are immigrants, with the largest share coming from South Asia.
Data from 2018 shows that 14% of the UK population came from a minority ethnic background. In the City of London, this figure was 40% in 2018.
According to 2020 data, nearly four in ten Americans identify with an ethnic group other than white.
COVID disproportionately affects migrant communities
Australia would have welcomed more migrants had it not been for the COVID pandemic, which closed borders from early 2020.
We would have had more tourists and more people arriving on work and student visas. Census data shows that the pandemic has led to an 80% decrease in the number of foreign visitors. This has affected the economy, especially in sectors such as tourism, hospitality and higher education.
We also received fewer relatives of Australians born overseas, for example on family sponsored visas. This can have implications for childcare, caring for elderly parents, and mental health.
Read more: The 2021 Australian census in 8 charts
Some areas with a high percentage of migrants have been heavily affected by COVID and pandemic restrictions.
Census data reveals, for example, that 71.6% of residents of Merrylands, a western suburb of Sydney, have both parents born overseas. And in the nearby local government area of Liverpool, 65.5% of people have foreign-born parents.
Western Sydney was an area disproportionately affected by COVID infections and deaths over the past two years. It was also subject to strict COVID restrictions and a heavy police and even military presence.
In Flemington, Melbourne, the site of a 2020 social housing tower block, 47.1% of people have both parents born overseas. Somalia and Ethiopia are among the top five countries of birth.
In Dandenong, southeast of Melbourne, 75.4% of residents have two foreign-born parents. The region has also suffered disproportionately more deaths from COVID.
However, we do not yet know the full extent of the impacts of COVID on these areas. More census data is expected to be released in October, along with employment and business travel data for these areas, which will be important to review for COVID impacts.