Notes on the data: Migration Program and Humanitarian Program

Humanitarian Program, Family Stream and Skill Stream, 2016


Policy context: Alongside the USA, Canada and New Zealand, Australia is regarded as one of the world’s leading immigration destinations. At June 2016, 28.5% of the estimated resident population in Australia was born overseas; one of the highest proportions across all OECD countries [1]. The UK and more broadly Europe have traditionally been the leading contributors to the overseas born population in Australia. However, this pattern has changed markedly with Asian countries such as China and more recently India surpassing the UK as the top source country for permanent migrants in Australia [2].

The Migration Program for skilled and family entrants and the Humanitarian Program for refuges and those in refugee-like situations make up the two formal programs that facilitate the arrival of permanent migrants into Australia. Since 2012-13, the migration planned intake figure has been capped at 190,000 places with the majority allocated to the skill stream, emphasising the focus on skilled migrants who can help address the skill shortages in Australia [1].

Migrants other than those under the Humanitarian Program generally have better health than the Australian born population in terms of mortality, hospitalisation rates and prevalence of health risk factors associated with lifestyle. While this is largely attributed to the ‘healthy migrant effect’ - an eligibility requirement for migrants to be in good health in their migration application – this advantage is said to decline over time to levels similar to the Australian born population. Nonetheless, the health status of migrants can vary depending on birthplace country, age, socioeconomic background, English language proficiency, education and income level [3].

Migrants can present higher or lower patterns of diseases compared with their Australian born counterparts, thus enjoying advantage as well as disadvantage for particular conditions. Those from non-English speaking backgrounds could be prevented from accessing information and services relating to health due to language and cultural barriers resulting in lower health literacy rates. This is not too dissimilar for elderly migrants who also require culturally and linguistically appropriate services [4].

Of the 135,304 permanent migrants who have arrived in Australia since 2000 and were recorded in the 2016 Australian Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset as resident in South Australia, 15.3% had migrated under the permanent Humanitarian visa stream, with 60.6% under the Skill and 24% under the Family visa stream [5].


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Humanitarian Program

The Humanitarian Program is comprised of the offshore (UNHCR referred and the Special Humanitarian Program) and the onshore component (protection provided to onshore refugees). Apart from 2012-13, which saw a 30% increase to 20,000 places under this program, planning levels have hovered between 12,000 and 13,750 places since 1995-96 [6]. In 2016-17, 21,968 visas were granted under the Humanitarian Program, the largest intake since 1980-81. This intake included the additional 12,000 places allocated to those displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iran [7].

Results from the Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) longitudinal study of humanitarian migrants show that overall 15% of respondents reported (under the General Health item from the SF-36) that their health had been ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’ [8]. Proportions were higher among females than males, but lower among those aged 15 to 19 years than older age groups [8]. Further, the proportion of BNLA participants reporting poor or very poor health is higher than the general Australian population in 2007-08 (3%) [9]. Poor or very poor self-rated health was associated with a greater number of financial hardships and not feeling welcomed in Australia, after adjusting for age, sex, marital status, education, country of origin, visa subclass, time in Australia and experience of traumatic events [10].

Family stream

The family stream of the Migration Program is designed for the migration of immediate family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents of New Zealand citizens. Family stream migrants need to be sponsored by an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen; apart from the necessary health and character requirements, they are not required to undergo skills testing or language requirement [11]. In 2016-17, the top 3 source countries receiving a Family stream visa were China, India and the UK. The leading visa in the Family stream was the Partner (85.1%) followed by the Parent visa (13.5%); the main recipients of both these categories were from China [7].

Skill stream

The reported outcomes under the Migration Program includes both the primary applicant and secondary applicants (i.e., dependants of the primary applicant). While the majority of places under the Migration Program are allocated to skilled migrants, it is important to note that in recent decades, there has been an increasing emphasis on the skilled stream away from the family stream. In 1996-97, skilled migrants comprised 47% of the Migration Program which increased to 67% in 2008-09; and has remained at that level since [11]. In 2016-17, the top three source countries granted a Skilled migration visa were India, China and the UK.


Geography:  Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintiles and Remoteness Areas


Numerator:  Humanitarian Program, people arrived between: 2000 and 9th August 2016; 2000 and 2006; 2007 and 2011; 2012 and 9th August 2016

Numerator:  Family stream, people arrived between: 2000 and 9th August 2016; 2000 and 2006; 2007 and 2011; 2012 and 9th August 2016

Numerator:  Skill stream, people arrived between: 2000 and 9th August 2016; 2000 and 2006; 2007 and 2011; 2012 and 9th August 2016


Denominator:  Total population


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on the ABS Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset, 2016


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