Most Australians say migrants are a strength not a burden: poll

Nearly two-thirds of Australians view immigrants as a national strength, the second biggest share among the world’s top migrant destination countries. A survey of 18 nations which together host more than half the world’s immigrants found 64 per cent of Australians think migrants have made the country stronger because of their work and talents. Only Canada had a higher share at 68 per cent, the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre shows.

In Australia, 31 per cent viewed migrants as a burden to the country because they “take our jobs and social benefits” – the equal third lowest share out of the 18 nations included in the study.

In the world’s six largest migrant receiving countries – US, Germany, UK, France, Canada and Australia – a majority viewed immigrants as a strength rather than a burden. Each of those countries hosted more than 7 million immigrants in 2017.

Macquarie University demographer, Professor Nick Parr, said Australia’s strong emphasis on skilled migration, and the economic benefits that can bring, had contributed to favourable views about migration here.

Another factor is the high proportion of the population who are migrants themselves, or whose parents were migrants – census data shows nearly half of Australians were either born overseas or had one or both parents born overseas.


Most Australians say Migrants are not a burden to Australia

“The number of Australians who have at least one migrant in their immediate family is likely to be substantial,” Professor Parr said.

Young people had the most favourable view of migrants. In Australia, 80 per cent of 18-29 year-olds said migrants make the country stronger because of their work and talents compared with 56 per cent of those aged over 50 years. There was a similar generational split in Canada, the UK and the US.

In most countries surveyed, including Australia, those with higher levels of education and those with higher incomes were more likely to say immigrants make their countries stronger because of their work and talents.

Monash University political scientist, Dr Nick Economou, said governments in the two countries that viewed immigrants most favourably – Canada and Australia – had both strongly supported the concept of multiculturalism.

“I think most people in Australia have the view that multiculturalism has been good and has made a positive contribution to both the economy and to the culture,” he said.

Public attitudes were more mixed on immigrants’ willingness to adopt their societies’ customs and way of life. In Australia, 44 per cent said immigrants want to adopt our customs and way of life while 51 per cent said immigrants want to be distinct. That split was similar to the median result across the 18 countries surveyed.


Australians view migrants favourably and say they may Australia stronger


A big majority of Australians were unconcerned by migrant crime. More than two-thirds said immigrants are no more to blame for crime in Australia than any other groups – that was a much bigger share than the median across the 18 countries in the survey.

But public opinion here was more divided over whether or not immigrants increase the risk of terrorism. The poll found 49 per cent of Australians believe immigrants do not increase the risk of terrorism while 48 per cent think immigrants increase the risk of terrorism.


Australia is one of the world’s most vibrant and tolerant multiracial and multiethnic societies. Credit:Simon O’Dwyer

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