Is Australia becoming a new Asian country?

Nathalie Macq, translated by Florence Carré
17 Juin 2013

The number of Australians born overseas is increasing more and more, especially for people born in Asia. This is a very recent multicultural phenomenon which makes the country to be number 1 in terms of Asian immigration.

Asian students in Brisbane
Asian students in Brisbane
Their coming might be explained by the easiness of the process of getting first a temporary-resident visa, followed by a permanent-resident visa, before eventually hitting the jackpot by getting the Australian citizenship. Also, the process of finding a job in this country is much less restrictive than anywhere else; though life might be more expensive, a medium-class worker will definitely earn more than in any other Anglo-Saxon country surrounding Asia. The Australian health insurance system called « Medicare » is also far more benefiting than its neighbours’ ones, especially in the United-States.
While Australia is a vast country, its population density - that is 2.9 inhabitants per square kilometre – is still one of the lowest worldwide. Moreover, Australia belongs to the world’s smallest continent, which doesn’t have any impact on influx of populations from all over the world for about twenty years. After suffering from the White Policy, there are now workers and entire families who immigrate to this big country. Indeed, for 70 years, this law had authorized only white people - mainly Anglo-Saxons but also people from Greece or Italy - to enter the territory.

Today, it is mainly Asian students who come to Australia. Among all the Anglo-Saxon countries surrounding Asia, Australia is the one which offers the lowest tuition fee for a university degree. Before the surging Dollar, the Australian degree was 35% inferior to the United Kingdom’s and 73 % inferior to the United States degree. Furthermore, an Australian degree will definitely open more career doors and offer the possibility to earn a higher salary.

As a matter of fact, Australia is one of the easiest countries to access. The process of getting a student visa is much faster and easier than in the United-States or Canada. Australian universities quickly adapt to this phenomenon. For instance, the Monash University in the state of Victoria is simply at the cutting edges of Asian culture. Its cafeteria frequently offers noodles from Singapore and its sportive department has activities such as Taekwondo, Judo, Wu Shu and other martial arts. Regarding adaptation, Australian streets are pretty good examples too. Indeed, they are full of posters and advertisements translated into Chinese, Japanese or Korean, and even in all three languages sometimes which is quite surprising at first sight.  .

Globalization also played a huge role. Today, Asia is one of the world’s biggest economic powers. Japan, China, Korea and India were the four first recipient countries for Australian exportations in 2010. Together with Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand, they represent 63 % of the total number of exportations. As a result, China is as essential to the Australian economic security and prosperity as the United States is to the military. Of course, the proximity of the two continents, known as “just next door”, as well as the favourable climate, are factors to take into account when analysing these influx of populations.
Today, Australia and most Asian countries are gathering in several economic organizations such as the ASEAN+6, the APEC, the TPP and the FPDA. Those organizations all have a free trade target concerning goods, growth and development as well as peace and stability. Therefore, they are all prepared to put the past aside and move on by building a brand new diplomatic relationship.  
Being part of the “Asian century” means to have a better productivity, an effective school system and an innovating process among the 5 best in the world, but also to study Asia in school books and to learn an Asian language (Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian or Japanese). Julia Gillard, Prime minister of the Australian government, expressed during a speech in October 2012 that this was good news for Australia, and it should drive a profound change in our thinking about our economic relationship with Asia ».
So Asia became essential to Australia’s growth and development. However, will Australia –still describing itself as part of the occidental world- be obliged one day to reconsider its position?