Country Profile: People’s Republic of China

People’s Republic of China

Capital City: Beijing

Population, 2010: 1.35 billion

Official Language: Mandarin

Monetary Unit: Yuan Renminbi

1. Overview

China is the world’s second largest economy in purchasing power parity terms. At the end of 2009, China overtook Germany to become the world’s largest exporter of goods. China is Australia’s largest trading partner. In the past decade, China’s importance to Australia has grown in line with its increasing economic, political and strategic weight. Despite slowing slightly in 2009, China has experienced a sustained period of rapid economic expansion, with GDP growth averaging about 10 per cent over the last two decades. Despite the size of its economy and rapid levels of growth, prosperity varies widely across the country and on a purchasing-power-parity basis China’s per capita GDP is less than a fifth of Australia’s.

For China, emigration remains quite low on average with only 0.6 per cent of the China-born population living outside China in 2010. Among China’s tertiary educated population there is far greater mobility, with 3.8 per cent living abroad. With emigration becoming more popular (and easier) for Chinese nationals, the numbers of Chinese migrants to Australia have steadily increased in the past decade. In 2009-10 there were 24 768 permanent Chinese migrants to Australia compared with 8473 migrants in 2000-01.

China born persons make up a large component of both permanent and temporary migration to Australia. Chinese students represent almost 20 per cent of all Australia’s international student enrolments with Australia being one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students wishing to study overseas. Permanent migration has been driven by growth in both skilled and family migrants. Though the majority of Chinese nationals enter Australia through the Skill Stream, family migration is still a major component, with many Chinese seeking to reunite with family. Entrants through the Family Stream have increased 69 per cent since 2006-07 and Chinese nationals were the largest cohort of the Family Stream in 2009-10.

A summary measure of well being is the Human Development Index (HDI), produced by the United Nations. The HDI is a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: health, education and income. Australia ranks very high on this measure, with a 2010 score of 0.94, second only to Norway.

Table 1

China is reasonably placed compared to the rest of East Asia and the Pacific with an HDI of 0.66 compared to the regional average of 0.65. Internationally, China currently ranks 89 out of 169 countries.

2. Community in Australia

At the end of June 2009 there were 350 980 China born people living in Australia, 58.9 per cent more than was reported in the August 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

It is the third largest migrant community in Australia – equivalent to 6.0 per cent of Australia’s overseas born population and 1.6 per cent of Australia’s total population.

For Australia’s China born migrants:

  • Males slightly outnumbered females – 54 per cent compared with 46 per cent.
  • The median age of 34.6 years was 2.2 years below that of the general population.
  • The participation rate at December 2010 was low at 59 per cent compared to the national average of 65 per cent.
  • The unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent at December 2010 was higher than the national rate of 5.0 per cent.*
  • At September 2010 there were 165 800 Chinese nationals working in Australia and their main occupations included professionals (22 per cent), labourers (15 per cent) and technicians and trade workers (13 per cent).

3. Permanent Migration and Temporary Entry

Summary, 2009-10

Permanent Additions to the Australian Population∗

There were 25 366 China born permanent additions to the Australian resident population, making China the second largest (behind the UK) source country of new migrants to Australia. Among the new China born additions to the Australian resident population:

  • The Skill Stream comprised 6938 skilled migrants and 7668 accompanying family members and accounted for 58 per cent of all permanent additions.
  • The Family Stream comprised 9641 family migrants and accounted for 38 per cent of all permanent additions.
  • Humanitarian Programs and non-program migration of China born New Zealand citizens accounted for the bulk of the remainder with 2.4 percent and 1.9 per cent respectively.

Permanent Migration Visas Granted, 2009-10*
Table 2

There were 24 768 Chinese nationals granted a permanent visa. Among the new permanent visa holders:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 59 per cent (14 505 visas) of the permanent visas granted, with employer sponsored and business skills migrants accounting for around 6 in every 10 visa grants.
  • The Family Stream accounted for 41 per cent (10 218 visas) of the permanent visas granted, with almost half entering as the partner of an Australian resident.*


Temporary Entry Visas Granted, 2009-10
Table 3

Of the main temporary entry program visas granted to Chinese nationals:

  • 54 409 Student visas were granted, with almost three-quarters granted to those enrolled in an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Australia.
  • 2910 Chinese workers were granted a Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa, with Registered Nurses, Skilled Meat Workers and Computing Professionals as the main occupations for which Australian employers recruited from outside Australia.
  • 245 387 Visitor visas were granted.

Detailed Analysis

Permanent Migration Visas Granted

Table 2 & 4

Skilled Migration

Skilled migration is focused on facilitating the permanent entry of those who can make a positive contribution to Australia through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurial spirit and future employment potential.

  • In 2009-10, 107 868 skilled visas were granted, with grants to Chinese nationals accounting for 13 per cent (14 505 grants) of the total. China is the second largest provider of skilled visa grants behind India.
  • Skilled migration remains the predominant route for Chinese nationals seeking permanent residency in Australia. In 2009-10, skilled visas accounted for 6 in every 10 permanent visas granted to Chinese nationals through the Migration Program.
  • Despite total permanent skilled grants declining 6 per cent in 2009-10, grants to Chinese nationals increased by 4 per cent over 2008-09, but is broadly on par with 2006-07 and 2007-08.
  • Reflecting the overall shift in skilled migration towards, demand-driven entry, 4499 Chinese migrants were sponsored by an Australian business in 2009-10 compared to only 717 in 2006-07.
  • A 49 per cent decrease was recorded in the number of General Skilled Migration visas granted between 2006-2007 and 2009-10. This period coincides with the introduction of priority processing in January 2009.

Family Migration

Family migration facilitates the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The program is currently dominated by fiancés, partners and dependent children, but also provides options for other family members such as parents, aged dependent relatives, carers and remaining relatives to join family in Australia.

  • In 2009-10, 60 254 family visas were granted, with grants to Chinese nationals accounting for 17 per cent (10 218 grants) of the total – the largest source of family migrants to Australia.
  • Total permanent visas granted through the Family Stream were up 7 per cent in 2009-10 but for Chinese nationals they were up 29 per cent.
  • The Family Stream accounted for around 4 in every 10 permanent visas granted to Chinese nationals in 2009-10. The largest components within the Family Stream were partners (accounting for 47 per cent of all Family visas) and parents (accounting for 38 per cent of all Family visas).
  • Although the majority of permanent visas are granted through the Skilled Stream, there has been a shift away from skilled migration, with larger proportions of Chinese attaining permanent residency through the Family Stream. While total permanent visas granted to
    Chinese nationals have increased 19 per cent since 2006-07, family visas have increased 69 per cent over the same period.

Temporary Entry Visas Granted

Table 3 & 4
International Students

The Student Visa Program consists of a range of visa categories that broadly correspond to education sectors. Students must study with an education provider and in a course registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students.

In 2009-10 there was a reduction in both the number of student visa applications received and the number of visas granted. Reasons included increased competition from overseas markets compounded by the strengthening of the Australian dollar, the introduction of robust student visa integrity measures and changes made to the General Skilled Migration program. While student visa grants fell by over 15 per cent, the total stock of international students in Australia remained relatively unaffected, only decreasing 1.1 per cent in 2009-10.

  • As at June 2010, there were 79 020 Chinese student visa holders in Australia a fifth of all international students in Australia and representing the second largest group of international students, just behind Indian nationals.
  • In 2009-10, 54 409 Chinese nationals were granted a student visa, making up 20 per cent of total student visas granted and making China the number one source of students for that year. Almost three quarters (73 per cent) were granted to those enrolled in an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Australia.
  • Despite the large fall in total student visas granted in the past year, visa grants to Chinese nationals rose slightly over the same period.
  • In 2009-10 student visas granted to Chinese nationals was up 42 per cent since 2006-07, with most of this increase dominated by Higher Education.

Business Long Stay (subclass 457) Workers

The subclass 457 visa program allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers for employment in management, professional, technical and skilled trades’ positions. The program is demand-driven and highly responsive to Australian labour market conditions. Statistics shows that the demand for subclass 457 visas increases in line with increased skilled vacancies.

The demand for foreign workers under this program declined following the economic downturn, but application rates steadily increased over the second half of 2009-10. In recent months business conditions have begun to improve and the number of applications lodged has increased.

  • There were 6110 Chinese nationals on 457 visas in Australia in 2010, making China the sixth largest source country of subclass 457 migrants.
  • In 2009-10, there were 2910 subclass 457 visas granted to Chinese nationals, representing 4.3 per cent of the total 457 visas granted in 2009-10.
  • In 2009-10, 67 980 visas were granted globally, a reduction of 33 per cent on the previous year. For Chinese nationals the fall was much sharper, with grants under this program falling 41 per cent in 2009-10 and 60 per cent since 2007-08. This could be explained by tighter English proficiency requirements introduced in 2008.
  • Among the Chinese workers sponsored under this program, Registered Nurses, Skilled Meat Workers and Computing Professionals were the main occupations for which Australian employers recruited from abroad.


In 2009-10, around a quarter of a million (245 387) Visitor visas were granted to Chinese nationals, making China the fourth largest source of visitors to Australia behind the UK, USA and Japan. Tourists accounted for around three quarters of all visitors and Business visitors accounted for just over a fifth (22 per cent) of all visitors.

4. Emigration*

Table 5

In 2009-10, 5550 China born permanent residents indicated at departure that they were leaving Australia permanently.

  • Around 65 per cent of these emigrants indicated that they intended on returning to mainland China, while a further 20 per cent intended on returning to Hong Kong.
  • One in four emigrants were professionals or associate professionals (13 per cent in each occupational group).
  • A majority (59 per cent) were emigrating from New South Wales followed by Victoria (23 percent).

5. State and Territory summary

Table 5

New South Wales was the most popular state of residence for Australia’s Chinese population. Over half of China born residents in Australia at the time of the last Census lived in New South Wales, and the State was also the intended residential location for 54 per cent of new family migrants in 2009-10. Victoria was the intended State of residence for 35 per cent of skilled migrants, while a further 30 per cent indicated that they would reside in New South Wales Chinese international students also showed a preference for New South Wales, with 40 per cent enrolled in an academic institution based in that State. A third of subclass 457 workers were sponsored for employment in New South Wales.

*Explanatory notes

  1. Unemployment rates for individual migrant countries are calculated from the monthly ABS labour force survey (using published and unpublished data) and have been averaged across six months to account for monthly fluctuations and a small sample size. The national unemployment rate is the seasonally adjusted figure for December 2010.
  2. Permanent Additions are the sum of those granted a permanent residency visa while in Australia, and those granted a visa through an Australian mission abroad, that have entered Australia during the respective reporting period.
  3. Visa grants are the sum of all permanent migration and temporary entry visa applications granted in Australia, through the Australian Government’s online visa portal, and visa grants made at an Australian mission abroad.
  4. Australian residents are Australian citizens residents in Australia and other permanent residents.
  5. General Skilled Migration (GSM) is the sum of total Skilled Family Sponsored, Skilled Independent and State/Territory Sponsored visas.
  6. Emigration is the number of persons who reported on their overseas departure card that they were leaving Australia permanently.

Further reading

This profile was prepared using information and statistics collated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, from the following publications:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
See:Country, economy and regional information

Department of Immigration and Citizenship

International Monetary Fund
See:Country Information

Central Intelligence Agency
See:World Fact Book 2010

United Nations Development Program
See:Human Development Report 2010

World Bank
See:The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011

Statistical tables – People’s Republic of China

Table 1: Economic and Human Development Indicators, 2010

Australia China
Adult Literacy (%)* 99.0 91.6
Fertility Rates (children per female) 1.9 1.8
GDP per capita PPP (current international $) 39 692 7517
Life Expectancy at birth (years) 81.9 73.5
Mean years of schooling 12 7.5
Human Development Index 0.94 0.66
Median Age (years) 37.8 34.2
Population (millions) 22.3 1 354.1
Population growth, 2010 (%) 1.7 0.6

* All data (with the exception of adult literacy rates) were sourced from the UNDP Human Development Report 2010. Data on adult literacy was sourced from the CIA World Factbook, due to incomplete country information in the UNDP Report. Australia’s data was sourced from the ABS. Data on GDP per capita from International Monetary Fund, World Economics Outlook Database Oct 2010.
Table 2: Number of persons granted a permanent Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

China 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Skilled Migration
   Business Skills 2 814 3 470 4 393 4 294
    Distinguished Talent 18 17 15 13
    Employer Sponsored 717 1 127 2 861 4 499
General Skilled Migration
    Skilled Family Sponsored 1 191 1 269 934 285
    Skilled Independent 9 284 8 214 4 343 3 919
    State/Territory Sponsored Visa Classes 664 827 1 381 1 495
  Total number of skilled visa grants 14 688 14 924 13 927 14 505
  Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas %) 71 71 64 59
Family Migration
 Child 463 519 480 522
  Prospective Marriage (fiancé) 605 592 719 661
  Partners 3 519 3 679 3 931 4 830
  Parent 1 101 1 019 2 438 3 841
  Preferential/Other Family 349 322 333 364
  Total number of family visa grants 6 037 6 131 7 901 10 218
  Family visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 29 29 36 41
Special Eligibility 4 8 3 45
Total – Permanent Migrants 20 729 21 063 21 831 24 768

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 3: Number of persons granted a temporary Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

China 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
International Students
English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students 39 107 1367 1320
 Schools 6 905 8 271 5 111 3 979
  Vocational and Education Sector (VET) 4 865 7 845 8 627 7 230
  Higher Education 25 642 32 434 37 054 39 721
  Postgraduate 680 755 909 1070
  Non-Award 291 300 895 1 043
  AusAID or Defence 44 51 52 46
  Total number of international student visa grants 38 466 49 763 54 015 54 409
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) 5 590 7 340 4 970 2 910
Tourist 154 171 178 144 177 638 187 388
Business Visitor 83 539 81 481 53 042 55 179
Sponsored Family Visitor 2 125 2 198 2 743 2 820
Total number of visitor visa grants 239 835 261 823 233 423 245 387

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 4: Main occupations among those granted a permanent (GSM) or temporary (subclass 457) visa, 2006-07 to 2009-10

China Business Long Stay (subclass 457) General Skilled Migration
Temporary Entry (employer sponsored) Permanent Entry (unsponsored)
2009-10 Registered Nurse 260 Accountant 1490
Skilled Meat Worker 80 Computing Professional 580
Computing Professional * 60 Registered Nurse 270
Marketing Specialist 50 Electronics Engineer 180
Accountant 40 Civil Engineer 130
Chef 40 Mechanical Engineer 120
Research and Development Manager 40 Electrical Engineer 80
General Manager 40 Chemical Engineer 60
University Lecturer 40 Retail Pharmacist 50
Business and Information Professionals 40 Secondary School Teacher 50


2008-09 Registered Nurse 320 Accountant 1520
Chef 190 Computing Professional 660
Welder (First Class) 150 Cook 270
Cook 100 Registered Nurse 150
Fitter 100 Translator 130
Computing Professional * 90 Hairdresser 110
Metal Fabricator 70 Electronics Engineer 90
Business and Information Professionals NEC 60 Mechanical Engineer 90
Skilled Meat Worker 60 Civil Engineer 80
University Lecturer 50 Electrical Engineer 70


Table 5: National Geographical Distribution, by country of birth and nationality



Proportion of all persons counted in the Census, 2006 33 25 20 8 10 2 1 2
Proportion of all China born counted in the Census, 2006 55 27 7 4 4 0 0 2
Geographical Distribution, Permanent Additions 2009-10
Skill Stream 30 35 9 11 11 1 1 2
Family Stream 54 26 9 4 6 0 0 2
Geographical Distribution, Temporary Entrants 2009-10
International Students 40 31 12 7 5 1 0 3
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 34 21 15 5 22 0 2 2
All China born 59 23 7 3 5 0 0 1

Information on migrants was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Information on the geographical distribution of the total population was sourced from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Table 6: China’s migration ranking relative to other countries

China 2008-09 Ranking 2009-10 Ranking
Chinese born Population in Australia 3 3
General Skilled Migration 3 3
Employer sponsored 6 6
Total Skilled Stream 3 3
Total Family Stream 1 1
International Students 2 1
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 4 4
Visitors 3 3

All information refers to the number of visas granted that year and was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, except for Population in Australia which is sourced from the ABS and refers to the stock of overseas born persons in Australia at the time.

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