Notes on the data: Birthplace & Non-English speaking residents

People aged 5 years and over who were born overseas and reported poor proficiency in English, 2011


Policy context:  For migrants born in predominantly non-English speaking countries, the rate at which they adapt to live in the host country is directly related to the rate at which they achieve proficiency in English. Their proficiency in English has profound implications for the ease with which they are able to access labour markets, develop social networks, become aware of and utilise services, and participate in many aspects of Australian society. Those people who are not proficient in spoken English are less likely to be in full-time employment and more likely not to be in the labour force [1]. From a health service viewpoint, the location of this population group is most relevant in the provision of health services for women, and for older people, who may not have developed English language skills (especially females), or have returned to using the language of their birthplace as they have aged (both females and males).

In 2011, almost half (49%) of longer-standing migrants and 67% of recent arrivals spoke a language other than English at home [2]. This probably reflects the main countries of birth for these two groups and also the amount of time spent in Australia. However, this does not provide an indication of their ability to speak English. Over half (51%) of longer-standing migrants reported speaking English very well, while 2.6% reported not speaking English at all. For recent arrivals, 43% reported speaking English very well and the proportion who reported not speaking English at all was 3.1% [2].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Perspectives on migrants, 2007. (ABS Cat. no. 3416.0). Canberra: ABS; 2008.
  2. ABS. Cultural diversity in Australia - Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012-2013. (ABS Cat. no. 2071.0). Canberra: ABS; 2012.

Notes:  The data comprise people born overseas who reported speaking English 'not well' or 'not at all'.

The data exclude the 0.5% of people born overseas who did not state their proficiency in English, as well as the 5.6% of the population who did not state their country of birth. (The proportions excluded were calculated based on the Australian data.)


Numerator:  People aged 5 years and over who were born overseas and reported speaking English 'not well' or 'not at all'


Denominator:  Population aged 5 years and over


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on the ABS Census 2011 data.


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