Selection, Migration and Integration: Why Multiculturalism Works in Australia (And Fails in Europe)

Published by the Centre for Independent Studies (Sydney), 1 September 2011 (PDF)

Executive Summary

Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Almost a quarter of the population was born abroad; almost half have at least one parent born overseas.

It is remarkable that this high degree of diversity has not led to social segregation. On the contrary, Australia’s migrants are extremely well-integrated by international standards. Migrant children often reach better education results than the native population. Migrants are on average not more criminal than Australians, and they score very well in terms of their labour market results, too.

Other countries’ experiences with migration have been very different. In particular, migration into European countries like Britain and Germany has created socio-political tensions. Last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that multiculturalism had failed in Germany. More recently, Prime Minister David Cameron made similar remarks about the United Kingdom.

So why is it that multiculturalism works in Australia but failed elsewhere?

It is often believed that Australia provides an especially welcoming atmosphere to its migrants and integrates them well into society. Although there may be some truth in these assertions, this monograph argues that the key to the success of Australia’s multiculturalism can be found in its selective immigration policy.

Australia predominantly receives migrants who were qualified and capable of easily integrating into society. This is unlike Europe where for decades, countries such as Germany and Britain failed to select their migrants carefully. Migrants who entered European countries with poor language skills and qualifications found themselves dependent on the welfare state.

Ethnic diversity can work—but only if it is accompanied by a selective migration system to ensure that only migrants willing and able to integrate enter the country. The future of Australian migration depends on not repeating the ‘come one and all’ policy of Europe and its welfare model—the reasons why multiculturalism has failed in Germany and Britain.

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