India now third most common place of birth of Australian residents, census results show | Census

India has overtaken China and New Zealand to become the third largest country of birth for Australian residents, 2021 census data has found.

On 10 August 2021, 673,352 people living in Australia reported India as their country of birth – an increase of 220,000, or 47.9% percent, since the previous census in 2016. The most common country of birth was Australia, followed by England.

Overall, more than one million migrants arrived in Australia in the past five years despite Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The census data, released on Tuesday, provides the most up-to-date information on cultural diversity, language, and religion and found Australia continues to be a broadly multicultural nation.

census results

Half of Australians have a parent born overseas, and more than one in four was born internationally.

Dr. Pradeep Taneja, an academic fellow of the Australia India Institute, said he wasn’t surprised that India had become the third-largest country of birth for Australians.

“It’s been happening for a while,” he said.

Taneja said numbers jumped after the Howard government in 2006 signed a memorandum of understanding with India to encourage Indian students to take up student visas to complete vocational training in Australia.

“Australia has always had a smattering of Indian migrants,” he said. “Before, they were essentially highly skilled white collar migrants [but] we saw at that time a wave of Indian students.

We already see the cultural impact … it’ll contribute to a more vibrant and multicultural Australia. Dr. Pradeep Taneja

“That trend has continued, even though the link between vocational education and migration has weakened somewhat.”

Taneja said migration from India to Australia had increased due to deepening strategic and economic ties between the two countries since the turn of the century.

“Australia has emerged as a popular destination for Indians seeking opportunities, not just for themselves but their children, and better quality of life,” he said.

“Since 2007, there have been better relations between Australia and India, and under the previous Coalition government, we saw a qualitative change in Australia’s relationship with India.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, met India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, at the Tokyo Quad meeting in May and has pledged to forge stronger economic links with the nation while diversifying from China.

Taneja said Australia’s increasingly strained relationship with China had also played a part in India’s rise.

“No doubt the relatively poor state of the bilateral relationship has led to a decline in the number of [Chinese] migrants coming to Australia,” he said.

“We’ve seen a reverse cycle; some well-off Chinese migrants are deciding to return to China, so it’s not surprising numbers are down.”

Taneja, whose current research focuses on the rise of China and Sino-Indian relations, was a graduate student at Peking University in the 1980s and worked in China for several years. He suggested a shared colonial history may make it easier for Indians to assimilate into Australia.

“Indians find it easier to settle in this country, unlike migrants from non-commonwealth countries like China,” he said.

“Earlier, if you looked at Indian media, there was hardly any coverage of Australia. Now, the media covers Australia quite extensively beyond cricket. The day Labor won the election, we saw vibrant media in languages like Hindi about Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong.”

Taneja said “almost every family” in Punjab now knows somebody who lives in Australia.

“It’s a virtuous circle; the more people come, the more information spreads about Australia as a migrant destination,” he said.

“We already see the cultural impact; Indian films take up hundreds of cinema screens. It’ll contribute to a more vibrant and multicultural Australia.”

The second largest increase in country of birth was Nepal, now the 11th most common nationality in Australia. An additional 70,000 people were counted in the 2021 census, an increase of 123.7%, bringing the total to 122,506.

Most Nepalese migrants since 2017 have arrived on skilled state and territory, and partner visas, Department of Home Affairs figures show. Nursing, accounting, and cooks are the most popular professions.

Business development manager Madan Mani Adhikary became a permanent resident in Australia in 2019 after arriving from Nepal as an international student.

Adhikary said many young Nepalese adults struggle to grow their careers at home, while Australia provides greater opportunities for settlement.

“Back home, people have a lot of exposure to Australia’s lifestyle and opportunity,” he said.

“They see people achieving here quite easily, which is hard and beyond expectations back home. By nature, Nepalese people are hardworking and dedicated, [but] there’s political instability and low economic growth. That’s a pushing factor.

Religious diversity is also increasing. For the first time, fewer than half of Australians identify as Christian. At the same time, there have also been increases in other religions, such as Hinduism, which grew by 55.3% to 684,002 people, or 2.7% of the population.

The percentage of non-religious Australians has increased to 38.4%, while other religions, including Hinduism, have also grown—source: Nick Evershed. The rate of non-religious Australians has risen to 38.4%, while other religions, including Hinduism, have also evolved—source: Nick Evershed.

The number of people who use a language other than English has also risen to more than 5.5 million, up by nearly 800,000.

Mandarin continues to be the most common language other than English used in the home, followed by Arabic. But Punjabi, spoken in the Indian province of Punjab, had the largest increase, growing more than 80% compared to 2016.

Vaibhav Gaikwad arrived in Australia on a University of Newcastle scholarship and became a citizen in 2019. His wife joined him in 2016.

Gaikwad said while India’s diaspora has widened, most migrants remain from a middle or upper-class background. Gaikwad is the first in his family to study internationally. He and his wife now work as chemical engineers.

“It’ll take time for that to change the class and caste aspect to [migration],” he said.

“Most students who come here are from dominant castes. Some families have settled from all backgrounds, [but] it’s an uphill battle.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics chief statistician, Dr. David Gruen, said the census collected information on more than 250 ancestries and 350 languages.

The top five ancestries followed previous trends and were largely Anglo-dominated, with English at 33%, Australian at 29.9%, Irish at 9.5%, Scottish at 8.6%, and Chinese at 5.5%.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.