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Australians chase their dreams overseas - Article in The Age, Melbourne

Australians chase their dreams overseas - Article in The Age, Melbourne

Old May 16th 2002, 7:27 pm
Posts: n/a
Default Australians chase their dreams overseas - Article in The Age, Melbourne

Hi Gang,

Thought you might like to see this, particulalry the 2nd paragraph.

Nigel db

Australians chase their dreams overseas
By Tim Colebatch
Economics Editor
May 17 2002

The number of Australians emigrating permanently to other countries has jumped by almost 30 per cent in the past two years, as young professionals headed overseas in search of better job opportunities.

Figures released by the Bureau of Statistics yesterday showed net migration to Australia slumped 27 per cent in the second half of last year compared with two years earlier. Surprisingly, migrant arrivals declined by almost 1600.

But the big change was in the numbers leaving.

The figures show 24,620 Australian residents left the country permanently in the six months to December, a marked increase from 19,030 in the same period of 1999, the last comparable figures.

Unpublished bureau data shows that almost half of them were aged between 20 and 39, and most were heading for one of five destinations: New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Hong Kong or Singapore.

Just over half of those leaving permanently were born overseas, and most were returning to their country of birth.

But the rapid growth in the exodus over the '90s has been driven by the Australian-born, most of them professionals and skilled workers.

In 1985-86 only 5600 Australian-born people leaving the country said they would not be back.

Last year they were leaving at almost four times that rate: 11,049 of them told immigration authorities their departure was permanent, while a further 41,570 said they would be gone for a year or more.

The exodus coincided with the dot.com bust, and a campaign by British authorities to recruit teachers and nurses, offering much higher salaries than in Australia. Britain remained the main destination for the Australian-born, followed by the US and New Zealand.

Immigration expert Bob Birrell of Monash University said the rapidly rising number of Australians choosing to emigrate reflected the growing volatility of an internationally mobile generation.

"There are problems in the labor market for computer experts, but I would be surprised if these figures show serious cause for concern," he said. "If you aggregate permanent and long-term departures, most people who leave Australia come back anyway."

Any brain drain was in Australia's favour, Professor Birrell said. "Our studies show arrivals outnumber departures substantially across the whole spectrum of occupations, including computer professionals and accountants. And Australia is still seen as a very attractive destination, second only to the US."

The bureau figures show the number of new settlers migrating to Australia slumped by 3.5 per cent between 1999 and 2001. Most of that fall reflected a dramatic reduction in New Zealanders crossing the Tasman.

But the number of migrants arriving from the rest of the world also declined marginally, despite the official migration program growing from 84,100 in 1998-99 to 88,600 in 2000-01 and 105,000 now.

Australia's total gain from migration over the half-year nonetheless rose from 54,340 in 1999 to 61,330 in 2001, as rapid growth in temporary workers and students overwhelmed the decline in permanent migration.

The bureau reports that 76,310 foreigners arrived to work, study and live in Australia for a year or more, whereas only 41,610 temporary residents returned home. The net gain of 41,770 in temporary migration far outnumbered the 19,560 gain from permanent migration.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said the figures omitted the growing number of migrants who were already here when they applied for residency, and the government was confident that its targets would be met.

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