At first glance, the release of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s annual Migration Program Report for 2012-13 paints a positive picture for the health of Australia’s migration program.

Total immigration outcomes are on the rise, targets are being met, and with a healthy majority of these new arrivals belonging to the skilled category, the economic contribution migrants are making to Australian society is growing increasingly stronger.

However a closer look at the state-by-state analysis of program outcomes tells a very different (and somewhat dire) story for the state of South Australia.

The Problem

The report illustrates that South Australia is continuing its recent trend of failing to attract new migrants. Departmental figures indicate that as a state of intended residence, SA’s share of the national migration program has declined from over a 10% share in 2005-06, to 7.5% last year.

Furthermore, recent ABS statistics illustrate that SA’s population grew just 15 300 in the past year, giving us a population growth rate of 0.9%. This figure is the second slowest nationally behind Tasmania, and the slowest of any mainland state. In comparison, Western Australia has the highest population growth rate of any state, powering ahead at 3.1% thanks to a strong migration program and booming economy.

So where are the holes in our migration program?

The easiest way to understand South Australia’s underachievement in regards to immigration outcomes is by looking at our share of the national program. South Australia makes up approximately 7.5% of the total population of Australia, but is consistently attracting shares below this figure across a broad range of visa categories.

  • The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and the Skilled Sponsored program recorded the biggest loss of any category, falling by 550 arrivals.  The total number of arrivals through the migration program fell from 5139 in 2012, to 4622 in the first half of the program year.
  • 457 visa grants also fell by 12.1% during the same period. Only 750 primary applicants were granted a 457 visa in South Australia last year, representing just 3.2% of all applications in the national 457 program. However even more concerning was the fact that there was a 33.9% decrease in the number of 457 visa applications lodged, making it likely we will see an even further corresponding decline in grants in the near future.
  • Family visa outcomes also decreased, falling from a 5.3% share of the national program to 4.7%.

Of the 1708 permanent departures from South Australia, 43% were managers, professionals, technicians and tradespeople.

On a brighter note, our share of the national Skilled visa program increased from 6.1% to 6.3%, and South Australia also saw a 23.6% increase in student application visa grants, making up 5.2% of all Australian student visa applications.  It is worth noting however that a large percentage of these students are already in South Australia, and are simply changing courses or commencing new courses.


Given the significant economic benefits which can be achieved and delivered through targeted and strategic economic migration programs and population growth, as a state we need to increase our program outcomes to ensure we can create and provide enough jobs and training opportunities for future generations. Reduced population growth means less jobs and training opportunities in construction, automotive, retail and hospitality industries.

How far does South Australia’s population growth have to fall until we have a serious and mature discussion about the future of South Australia?

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