High Proficiency of English Among Migrants to Australia

Most Australian migrants who speak another language with their family have no trouble with the English language, official data reveals. Last month, Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge said the government would consider suggestions that basic conversational English should be a requirement for permanent residency. It followed moves to make aspiring citizens have a “competent” level of English.

Most migrants who speak another language at home have a high level of proficiency in spoken English.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Wednesday reveals that the majority (73 percent) of permanent migrants spoke a language other than English at home in 2016. Permanent migrants who spoke a language other than English at home generally reported a high level of proficiency in spoken English (83 percent). Skilled migrants had the highest level of English proficiency, at 92 percent. Those in the family and humanitarian streams — who arrived under different eligibility criteria and circumstances — had lower rates of English proficiency, at 73 percent and 66 percent, respectively. In 2016, there were 2.2 million permanent migrants whose arrival date connected with their permanent visa was between January 1, 2000, and August 9, 2016. Almost three in five were skilled migrants, about one in three were in the family stream while one in 10 were part of the humanitarian stream. Permanent migrants were younger than the general population, with 85 percent of working-age — 15 to 64 years old.

There were differences in the top countries of birth of permanent migrants by visa stream. The majority of the skilled migrants were from India (19 percent), followed by England (13 percent) and China (12 percent). The top countries for family migrants were China (14 percent), England (8.8 percent) and India (8.3 percent). Humanitarian migrants were most likely to be born in Iraq (18 percent), Afghanistan (12 percent) and Myanmar (8.1 percent). In 2016, 70 percent of permanent migrants aged 15 years and over held a non-school qualification In terms of work, the majority of skilled migrants aged 15 and over were in the labour force (83 percent) That compared with almost two-thirds of family migrants and about half of the humanitarian migrants. Out of the skilled migrants, more than one in three were working in professional occupations. Of these, about one in 10 were working as health professionals (9 percent), or business, human resource or marketing professionals (8.8 percent), and ICT professionals (6.6 percent).

Employed permanent migrants most commonly reported earning weekly incomes of $650 to $999 per week. More than half of permanent migrants aged 15 and over owned their home outright or with a mortgage, while 42 percent were renting.