For a big island like
Australia, with a small and ageing population, a considered immigration
framework is, as crucial a resource, as capital, oil and trade. At a time when Australia is in the midst of a fierce debate about
its strategy towards migrants, asylum seekers, boat people and refugees, an
article in "The Age" shows, how migrants, particularly, the boat people and
refugees, have made it big in the country.
Provide Australia, its workforce
Despite critics who argue that the widespread immigration trend
disturbs social cohesion, destroys the cultural integrity and strains
environment and infrastructure; the
benefits of migration for Australia cannot be understated.
In actuality, migrants provide
Australia, its much need workforce and population stability
Migration has accounted for over
half of the country's population gain in 2011. Importantly, among the migrants
in 2011, 37 per cent were in the prime working age of 25 to 44, and less than 1
per cent older than 64. Contrast this with Australian-born population figures.
The population statistics show that in 2011, only 27 per cent of people born in
Australia were in the prime working age, whereas almost 12 percent were over 64
years of age.
But migration issues, the article says, have been reduced to
politicised sound-bites. Julia Gillard, the country's former Prime Minister,
likened the 457 visa program to asylum seekers. The 457 visa program is very
popular among potential high skilled migrants from developing countries like
India, who wish to seek opportunities in Australia. The program is designed to
meet short-term skills shortages in Australian industries.
Although political parties on both side understand that curtailing
immigration will cause long-term damage to the Australian economy, politicians
still resort to jingoism. For instance, Ms Gillard talked of wanting "to
stop foreign workers being put at the front of the queue with Australian
workers at the back."
Refugees and boat people are a small component
Decrying the present
policy measure of turning back the asylum seeking boat people, The Age article
points out that, they are "only a small part of Australia's annual migrant
intake." Compared to the "almost 185,000 migrants," that Australia received
under various migration schemes, the number of applications for asylum was only
At the crux of the
debate is the quote in the article, by Tan Le, the 1998 Young Australian of the
Year, who set out from Vietnam, on boat in 1981, and is now the co-founder of
Emotiv, a producer of headsets that read brain signals and facial movements to
control technology: "I arrived in Australia at the age of four and that
transformed the opportunity that I had because my brain was still young, it was
still in its formative years and still able to adapt and learn very efficiently."
Le represents a generation of
migrants who have settled in Australia, made it their home and continue to
contribute to the nation's prosperity.