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Rapid return of migrants continues

The latest overseas arrivals and departure data released yesterday confirms that permanent and long-term arrivals are rising rapidly, while short-term arrivals are slower to recover from pandemic restrictions.

Permanent and long-term arrivals are exceeding 2019 levels, reflecting strength in net overseas migration. This momentum continues to build across several components:

  • 11,850 permanent arrivals in September 2023 compared to 7,520 in September 2019 (up 57%) and 8,690 in September 2022 (up 36%)
  • 55,590 long-term overseas arrivals in September 2023 compared to 40,170 in September 2019 (up 38%) and 43,930 in September 2022 (up 26%)
  • 45,090 international student arrivals in September 2023 compared to 45,290 in September 2019 (down 0.5%) and 35,560 in September 2022 (up 27%).


Chart 1: Short-term and long-term migration 

Source: ABS, Overseas Arrivals and Departures

Short-term arrivals have not risen at the same pace as permanent and long-term arrivals, but there are promising signs. In September 2023, there were 584,620 short-term overseas visitor arrivals compared to 694,960 in September 2019 (16% lower) but this is up 371,850 from September 2022 (+57%). 

New Zealand topped the table of short-term visitors with 128,820 arrivals (22% of total arrivals). Notably, there was a sharp increase in short-term visitors arriving from China following the reinstatement of Australia as an approved country in their Approved Destination Status scheme. There were 59,080 short-term Chinese arrivals in September 2023 compared to 37,330 Chinese arrivals in June 2023. More analysis on Australia’s tourism recovery and outlook will be available in the upcoming edition of Tourism Market Outlook.

Migration is a longstanding source of growth for Australia. The ABS estimates that migrants constituted 29.5% of the total population in June 2022, totalling 7.7 million individuals.

However, there have been some significant shifts in the profile and background of migrants over the last decade. In 2022, the leading birth countries for migrants were England (3.7%), India (2.9%), China (2.3%), and New Zealand (2.3%). Despite England consistently holding onto the top spot, there is a noticeable decline in the proportion of English migrants – falling from 4.4% in 2012 to now 3.7%. In contrast, there has been a rapid increase in migration from high-growth Asian countries like China and India. Between 2012 and 2022, India, China, Nepal, Philippines, and Vietnam emerged as the fastest-growing source countries for migrants, with the number of Indian-born migrants more than doubling during this period.


Chart 2: Largest increases in migrants between 2012 and 2022, by country of birth

Source: ABS, Australia's Population by Country of Birth

Note: the data label above the green bar shows the percentage change between 2022 and 2012.


At the state level, Western Australia boasts the highest proportion of migrants among states and territories at 34.1%, although it recorded a decline from 35% in 2016, likely attributed to stringent COVID-related border policies. Conversely, Tasmania witnessed the most robust growth in the proportion of migrants, rising from 13.1% in 2016 to 16.3% in 2021.

The shifting profile of migrants is particularly evident at the state level. While English migrants remain the majority in smaller states, larger and more diverse states like New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria have become home to substantial Chinese and Indian migrant populations, respectively. This reflects the role of NSW and Victoria as primary entry points for migrants and the presence of well-established migrant communities in these states. 


This blog was co-authored by Nakshi Mehta, Analyst at Deloitte Access Economics. 


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