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Australia now has more Indian migrants than Chinese, data shows

Indians moving to Australia were the largest overseas migrant cohort in the past decade and have supplanted China as the second-biggest diaspora living Down Under, government data show.

From 2011 to 2021, Indian-born migrants rose by 373,000, followed by 208,000 from China and 118,000 from the Philippines, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed Tuesday.

As a result, Indians now account for 2.8 per cent of the population, compared with China’s 2.3 per cent, while Britons lead with 3.8 per cent.

Yet reflecting the distortions of the pandemic, the proportion of Australia’s population who are overseas-born actually edged down to 29.1 per cent in 2021 from 29.8 per cent a year earlier. That was due to the closing of the borders, meaning almost no new arrivals and few Australian departures in the period.

Just under half of all Australians were either born overseas or had a parent who was, according to the most recent data from 2016. Immigration played a central role in Australia avoiding recession for 28 years until Covid-19 finally sent the economy into reverse.

China’s fall from second to third place as a source of immigrants came as ties between Australia and its top trading partner were deteriorating.

They went into free-fall in 2020 as Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Beijing, infuriated, responded with a volley of punitive trade actions that have hit commodities from coal to barley, lobsters and wine.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said last month that Australia would look to reduce its dependence on China in the face of “economic coercion” from Beijing. India’s swelling population – set to overtake China’s in 2027 – suggests ongoing opportunities to diversify the trade portfolio.


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