In the 2008 Western Australia’s population growth peaked at 73,922. The highest figure on record for a Calendar year. Resulting in a growth rate of 3.5%, higher than some 3rd World Countries. Driven by overseas migration, the State’s population soared by over half a million people in the space of ten years, 2006-2016.


Welcome to my First Post. My main motivation for starting a Blog was my interest in immigration, population and demographic change. Observing the very high rates of population growth in Western Australia. From 2006 to 2016 WA’s population grew by over 500,000.1  Net Overseas Migration (mainly Temporary worker migration) made up 59% of the growth.

The Perth Metropolitan Region took nearly all of the State’s growth, increasing by 445,000 people.2   Put in perspective, in the last decade, Perth added the number of people equivalent to a medium sized city.3  Talking with family, friends and West Australian citizens over the past few years. It became clear they where concerned at the scale and pace of immigration driven growth.

As a migrant from the UK, I understand the challenge families and individuals face settling into their new country. But in recent times I have witnessed a growing concern about the scale of immigration into Western Australia. This should not be interpreted as turning against immigration.  It is more about the pace and scale of change in WA. My research will provide West Australian’s with information of how much their place is being transformed by the very high migration program implemented by the Australian Government in Canberra. I will also assess the outcomes of the State government migration program.


  1. Present to the  West Australian people a plainly worded, evidence based account of how the Commonwealth Government’s very high migration programme is changing our cities, towns and suburbs;
  2. Examine State Specific Regional Migration policies and assess the outcomes in Western Australia; and
  3. Engage West Australian citizens from all backgrounds in a discussion on why the Commonwealth Government are maintaining a very high overseas migration agenda. Even though the resource boom is over and there is growing unemployment.


I will use descriptive statistics to describe basic features of immigration and population data. I will also conduct reviews of policies and theories related to population, immigration and demographics.



The data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in Figure 1 below unveils overseas immigration was the major driver of population in WA.   Over the past decade immigration took up 59% of the increase. Natural increase (births minus deaths) lagged behind as a proportion of growth at 35%.  Interstate migration at 6 %, has reduced considerably over the past 2 years (see Figure 1 below).

However, West Australia took a surprising turn in population trends from 2013 onward. Natural increase started to overtake Net Overseas Migration (NOM) and has risen steadily since (see Figure 1 below). The ABS data for birth rates from 2005 to 2015,  has West Australia leading the way increasing from 26, 253 to 35,135 births. A rise of nearly 34%. This is more than double the average birthrate for Australia, which only increased by 15.5% over the same period.4  

The State’s birthrates have been creeping ever closer to the ideal Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.1. In fact, a substantial part of the State’s population residing outside Greater Perth, has exceeded the ideal TFR. For example, in 2015, the Rest of WA had a TFR  of 2.18. Once this level of TFR is sustained, a Country or State is able to maintain current population levels, without the need for high levels of NOM. 

A significant difference in population trends indicates a one size fits all migration program for Australia may not be the best approach. For example, Figure 2  illustrates that NOM is still leading the way for the rest of Australia, unlike Western Australia where Natural increase has gained momentum. Each State has different labour requirements and may be better placed to turn the levers on and off, when local conditions change. Also important is State Budgets and Infrastructure Planning require predictable population projections to plan ahead for future growth.

For Western Australia, a big magnet was the resource boom. Figure 1 demonstrates this showing a peak in NOM in 2012. Interestingly this increase occurred after the introduction of the First Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA), granted to the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara.6 This EMA had Federal Government approval to hire the workforce from overseas. During this time (displayed in Figure 1) there was a sizeable increase in NOM in WA, up 73% on the previous year.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics, 2017,, Viewed 27 September, 2017

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics, 2017,, Viewed 27 September, 2017



To get a grasp of why Australia reached this point of high immigration it might be worth looking back to Paul Keating’s era (1991-96). Under his leadership Australia moved away from the Nation Building program built on Permanent skilled migration – to the creation of a Temporary worker visa system.7The idea was that the skills gaps would be plugged with Temporary foreign workers while locals were trained to fill jobs in the longer term. After John Howard took office in 1996 the Temporary 457 visa was implemented.8


Assessing the experience here in West Australia. It appears that the original reasons for creating the 457 visa has not worked out exactly the way it was intended. It was maybe a good strategy at that time. But as it turned out there where 54,900 West Australian’s looking for work (unemployment rate 6%) when one of the State’s biggest resource projects was kicking of on Barrow Island in 2009.9 Many of those unemployed were youth (15-24 age) amounting to 24,400 with an unemployment rate of 10.3%. The Barrow Island Project peaked with a workforce of 8,000. 10

The Temporary work visa has certainly become the fastest growing visa type used in WA (see Figure 3 below) and indeed in the rest of Australia. Key statistics from recent migration trends in Australia (2014-15) counted a total of 205,000 Permanent migrant grants. Compared to a whopping 622,436 Temporary entrants grants.11 As one commentator put it “The shift of Australia from a settler nation to a Temporary migrant nation has been the biggest change in nearly seven decades of post-war immigration history. Yet there has been virtually no debate about it”.12

In 2010 the Federal Government showed its intent on maintaining and growing  the Temporary visa system. Providing, Temporary overseas workers with higher processing priority than General Skilled Migration (GSM).13  Figure 3 below shows the Temporary visa overtaking the Permanent visa in West Australia more than a decade back. At the end of 2015 Temporary visa’s accounted for 29,960 out of 54,400 (55% total visa arrivals). Permanent visa’s made up only 11,780 or 22% of total arrivals.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3412.0, Migration Australia (2015-16), 2017,, Viewed 28 September, 2017



Employment concerns are at the forefront coming to the end of an employment boom in the Resource sector. Figure 4 below illustrates NOM arrivals and unemployment levels in West Australia from 2006 to 2016.

The data presents the highest monthly unemployment figure for each year from 2006 onward. It shows that by 2016 youth unemployment had climbed  to 34,900 (rate 14.6%). The latest unemployment figures from the ABS for August 2017 signalled an improvement for youth dropping to 30,200 (rate 13.5%). For the total unemployed, Figure 4 shows at February 2016 the number was 72,700 (rate 6.7%).  Since then there has been a recovery, as of August 2017, total unemployed had dropped to 61,400 (rate 5.8%).

Figure 3 above highlighted that over half the NOM arrivals to WA are Temporary visa’s. They all have working rights and many are within the age range of the unemployed youth in WA.  This is not to suggest the reason WA has had growing unemployment levels is due to the growth in NOM arrivals. Instead, it highlights the fact that while NOM arrivals have increased. There was also a rise in unemployment,  particularly youth unemployment.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 6202.0, Labour Force, Australia, 2017,Viewed 29 September 2017, Note: these are the highest monthly unemployment figures picked out over a 12 month period between 2006-16, there was a lowering of the unemployment levels in each year between 2006 and 2016)



In the recent WA State election Labor Leader Mark McGowan announced that Labor, if elected, would be changing State Specific Regional Migration (SSRM).  Immediately after being elected the State Premier cut the SSRM occupation list from 178 to 18 occupations.14  In 2015-16 the SSRM scheme provided 40,101 work visa’s Australia wide.15  Slashing the SSRM list could be an important move in opening up more jobs for the local workforce.

The incoming Premier also made it known that he was putting WA jobs first. Disclosing on Twitter,  a copy of a letter to PM Malcolm Turnbull requesting that Perth be removed from the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS). 16 This could also have a positive impact for the local workforce. Most recent figures show that there where 4,909 RSMS visa’s granted in WA at 2015. The majority of these positions where for trades, technicians, machinists, labourers, sales, admin, and community services.


While the WA State immigration policies are responding to the downturn in the State’s economy. It is not easy to forecast how these changes will flow onto  provide more opportunities for the local workforce . This is because Immigration policy is predominately under the control of the Federal Government. And The Australian Migration Programme Levels are anticipated to remain at 190,000 by the end of 2017. Migration planning levels are set annually and for 2017-18 the figure is unchanged at 190,000.17 With Federal Government retaining high levels of immigration. It is difficult to forecast the number of overseas workers that will arrive in West Australia, in the coming months and years.

It did seem a significant policy change was afoot when in April 2017 the Federal Prime Minister announced the abolition of the 457 visa. To be phased out by March 2018 and replaced by the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa. The TSS visa will apply Mandatory Labour Market Testing (MLMT) required to be carried out by employers before hiring overseas. Applying MLMT is a step in the right direction towards ensuring a genuine attempt by employers to employ local workers first.

A concern is that the MLMT has excluded countries to which Australia has international obligations.  One of these is the Chinese Australian Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA). Under the ChAFTA section for Grant of Temporary Entry it states that: “ neither side shall impose or maintain any limitations on the total number of visa’s to be granted………or require Labour market testing, economic needs testing or other procedures of similar effect as a condition for Temporary entry”. 18



The permission to allow  Chinese workers visa concessions (under the ChAFTA) is an interesting direction taken by the Federal Government. Before and after the Federation of Australia in 1901, the UK had always been the primary source of settlers and permanent migration. For the first time in the history of Australia in 2010-11, China surpassed the UK as Australia’s primary source of permanent migrants. 19 This was a monumental change in the development of immigration policy in Australia.


In 2011-12, China was displaced as the number one source of permanent migrants by India. The acceleration of Indian immigration to Australia since then has been remarkable, standing at by far the largest source of permanent skilled migrants in 2016 at (40,145 places), China in second place (29,008 places) and the UK in third place at (18,950 paces).20


In a future post I will examine why the Australian Government decided to make these radical changes to the Nation’s migration program.


1. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016, 25 September, 2017] .
2. [ibid]
3.[Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Urban population by city size, 2016,, Viewed 25 September 2017]
4. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3301.0, Births, Australia, (2015), 2016, Viewed, 25 September, 2017]
5. [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Fertility Rates,, 2016, Viewed 25 September, 2017.]
6. [Parliament of Australia, Department of Parliamentary Services, Skilled migration: temporary and permanent flows to Australia, 2012, Viewed 25 September, 2017]
7. [Before the implementation of the 457 visa, the main pathway to Australia was through highly skilled independent (non sponsored) migrants applying and public servants in Canberra predicting the skills the economy needed looking ahead, See Mares, Peter, Temporary migration is a permanent thing, Inside story: Current affairs & culture from Australia and beyond, 2013,, Viewed 26 September, 2017]
8. [ibid]
9. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, 6202.0, Labour Force, Australia, 2017,
Viewed 27 September 2017]

10. [Beyer, Mark, Gorgon workforce hits 8,000, 2015,, Viewed 27 September, 2017]
11. [Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Australia’s Migration Trends (2014-15), 2016,, Viewed 27 September, 2017]
12. [Collins, Jock, Report marks Australia’s shift from settler to temporary migrant nation, 2014,“,Viewed, 27 September, 2017]
13. [Parliament of Australia, Skilled migration: temporary and permanent flows to Australia, 2012, , Viewed 28 September, 2017]
14. [Government of West Australia, Western Australian skilled migration occupation list (WASMOL),2017,, Viewed 11 October, 2017]
15. [Department of Immigration and Border Control, 2015-2016 Migration Programme Report, 2016,, Viewed, 25 September 2017]

16. [Gredley, Rebecca, WA premier Mark McGowan acts on promise for state jobs,2017,, Viewed 12 October, 2017]
17. [Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Fact Sheet: 2017-2018 Migration Programme planning levels, 2017, Viewed 12 October, 2017]

18. [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, 2015,, Viewed 13 October, 2017]
19. [Parliament of Australia, Migration to Australia: A quick guide to the statistics, 2017,, Viewed, 15 October, 2017]
20. [Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2015-16 Migration Programme Report, 2016,–16%20Migration%20Programme%20Report, Viewed, 17 October,2017]

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