Last week Australia's population clocked over to 24.5 million, with nearly a third born overseas, or 6.9 million people, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
In fact, almost half of all Australians were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was, with more than 12 million Australians coming from migrant backgrounds.
And when you consider the total population, the majority of Australians have at least one foreign ancestor – indicating many of us have ties to immigrant heritage.
Born overseas but ready for work
In November last year, the ABS released a survey on the characteristics of recent migrants.
The ABS found the majority (81%) of recent migrants were aged under 44 years, indicating that most migrants are young and at prime working age.
Of those who obtained Australian citizenship since arrival, the labour participation rate was 80%, which is above the national average rate of about 65%.
This shows that recent claims of migrants putting pressure on welfare payments are clearly overstated.
Despite so many Australians being born overseas there has still been an undercurrent of negativity in some quarters towards immigration.
While immigration has contributed greatly to Australia’s productivity, and in turn, created more jobs, migrants have often been labelled as a cause of rising house prices, low wage growth and stretched infrastructure.
CGU CEO Ben Bessell says the commentary is ill-founded and the contribution from immigration overall, is incredibly valuable to our economy and our culture.
“There are many causes for negative economic and service outcomes and we often hear an unbalanced position in my view. Immigration is one of Australia’s great economic assets. Having a workforce with diverse backgrounds, skills and perspectives should only enhance productivity,” he says.
Small business is anything but small
Ben says small businesses are the backbone of Australia’s economy and business owners from migrant backgrounds play a large role in this.
“There are more than two million small businesses in Australia, and it’s true, they employee a lot of people. In fact, small businesses with less than 20 people account for over 45% of total employment in Australia,” he adds.
Over a third of small business owners are migrants.
“Small businesses need more support than ever, whether multi-generational local businesses, or more recently established businesses owned and run by members of our community who have moved to Australia more recently,” he says.
Walking the walk
At CGU, an internal survey showed that its employees come from a broad and diverse range of ancestry and ethnic groups.
In Australia, 112 countries of ancestry are currently represented by employees across the business.
Ben says it’s important to celebrate the tapestry of cultural backgrounds his employees share as it adds value to the organisation, its stakeholders and customers through the benefit of different perspectives.
“Workplaces should reflect our population’s diversity. Cultural diversity should enable us to think differently, learn from different experiences and gain perspectives from those who have a unique ancestry,” he adds.
Australia now holds the record for the longest period of recession-free growth for a developed country. The vast array of small businesses has a lot to do with this, whether recently established or heritage businesses built up over many years and generations.
“Global events in recent times have quite understandably created concern about certain political, religious and cultural beliefs but we mustn’t fall into the trap of generalisation and take a misguided position on the virtues of cultural diversity.
“We have a great opportunity to support businesses and communities in Australia, whether indigenous or otherwise and an ongoing focus on providing opportunities for such critical parts of our economy is vital,” he says.