The migration component of Australia’s engagement with Asia has grown strongly since the early 1990s, and rose by 13.5 per cent in 2012 following a modest rise of 3.4 per cent in 2011. The 2012 result reflects a 16.7 per cent rise in the number of immigrants coming to Australia from Asia (following a more modest rise in 2011) and a 2.3 per cent rise in the number of Asian-born residents returning to live in Asia (following a similar rise in 2011). The pattern of migration movements in relation to the ROW in 2012 was similar to that with Asia but the changes were more modest. Overall engagement rose by 3.0 per cent, reflecting a rise in immigration to Australia of 4.7 per cent and a fall in the number of residents emigrating to live abroad of 1.0 per cent.

Australia’s population grew by 1.8 per cent to 22.96 million in the year to December 2012, in line with the average annual growth in Australia’s population in the previous five years to 2011. The natural increase (from births) and net overseas migration contributed 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the 2012 rise in population respectively. This compares with 45 and 55 per cent respectively in 2011. All Australian states recorded positive population growth in 2012, with Western Australia continuing to record the strongest growth (of 3.5 per cent), most likely helped by interstate movements in response to demand for labour in the resources sector. Tasmania recorded the slowest population growth in 2012, at just 0.1 per cent.29

Figure 12: Migration component
Start year:
End year:
Rest of world

The rise in inward migration to Australia from Asia in 2012 varied across individual countries. Migration from India, Japan and China grew strongly by 40.8, 16.3 and 10.8 per cent respectively in 2012 (Japan’s from a relatively low base). While immigration from ASEAN countries also rose strongly overall by 10.6 per cent – with increases in immigration from eight members countries in 2012 – immigration from Indonesia and Thailand fell by 12.6 and 9.1 per cent fall respectively. The strong rise in inward migration from India in 2012 followed consecutive falls in the three years to 2011. These falls were consistent with falls in inward education travel from India in 2010 and 2011, as discussed earlier.

The growth in emigration from Australia to Asia of Asian-born Australian residents in 2012 was moderate at 2.3 per cent. The number of Chinese and Indian-born émigrés rose by 1.3 and 14.9 per cent respectively, while the number of ASEAN-born émigrés rose by 4.0 per cent in 2012. It is difficult to know the precise reasons for the return of these former immigrants to their home countries. While positive perceptions about economic and job prospects at home could be a factor in the case of ASEAN and China, the jump in the number returning to India in 2012 is unlikely to reflect this given that GDP growth in India almost halved from 6.3 per cent in 2011 to 3.2 per cent in 2012.30