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Migration Research in the Asia Pacific - APMRN Working paper 4
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Asia Pacific Migration Research Network
Working Paper No. 4

Migration Research in the Asia Pacific: Australian Perspectives

Papers presented at a workshop sponsored by the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia, Wollongong University, April 1997

Edited by Patrick Brownlee & Colleen Mitchell

Published by the APMRN Secretariat
Migration and Multicultural Studies Program
Institute for Social Change & Critical Inquiry
University of Wollongong, Australia

ISSN 1328-2530
Copyright © 1998

Table of Contents

    1. Immigration and Globalisation? Affluence and Poverty Among Immigrants from Asia in Metropolitan Sydney
    Ian Burnley - University of New South Wales
    2. The Schooling of Immigrant Students: A 1990s Perspective
    Desmond Cahill - RMIT, Melbourne

    3. Asian Small Business in Australia
    Jock Collins - University of Technology, Sydney

    4. Perspectives and Problems of International Comparative Research
    Christine Inglis - University of Sydney

    5. Australian Research and Asia-Pacific Migration
    James Jupp -Australian National University, Canberra

    6. Ethnicity, Gender and Educational Experience: insights from Chinese and Vietnamese students
    Georgina Tsolidis - Monash University, Melbourne


The Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN) was initiated by a number of scholars throughout the Asia Pacific to develop institutional links and implement a research project entitled New Migrations and Growing Ethno-Cultural Diversity in the Asia Pacific Region. The research project, coordinated by the Centre for Multicultural Studies, University of Wollongong, was approved by UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme for seed funding and project support in 1995.

This series of working papers of the UNESCO-MOST Asia Pacific Migration Research Network is part of the mission of the APMRN to research and publish trends and developments in the population movements of the Asia Pacific region. The working papers aim to provide reports on current research being undertaken by APMRN members. The working papers will be available through the APMRN and will allow researchers the opportunity to publish work-in-progress for the benefit of their Network colleagues, as well as other interested scholars, policy makers and students.

Migration research is a relatively new field of study to the region. It combines several disciplines and the authors of the papers in this volume have varied academic and research backgrounds. It is clear that migration research is crucial to an area which is experiencing rapid economic and social transformation.

By applying innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to migration studies, and utilising the broad skill base of the Asia Pacific Migration Research Network, it is anticipated that the work of the APMRN will be a valuable contribution to social scientific inquiry and public policy, and ultimately, to an improved understanding of regional development in the Asia Pacific.

The papers in this volume were presented in draft form at a workshop sponsored by the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia (ASSA) in 1997. An initial grant from the ASSA provided the funds to bring together about thirty Australian researchers and public servants associated with the APMRN. This is the second of two volumes published from the Workshop. The papers in this volume deal with regional migration issues and experiences in Australia. The papers cover a variety of topics and discuss empirical and theoretical issues confronting a country with evolved social and economic policies in relation to immigration. The challenges confronting Australia lie in responding to its diverse population and trying to regulate the impact that globalisation is having on migration pressures in the region.

Burnley's paper draws on detailed Census data to map the socio-economic profile of Sydney as an emerging 'global city'. The diverse ethno-cultural make up of Sydney is a prerequisite for Sydney's developing role in the region. Drawing on the work of Sassen and others, Burnley argues convincingly that Sydney is a global city but that migrant diversity and structural inequality pre-date the city's new status. The paper provides a detailed examination of statistical data on the residential concentration of birthplace and language groups in Sydney to develop an index of dissimilarity and segregation. Occupation, education, and income profiles are compared to assess the relative advantages and disadvantage that migrants have experienced. Burnley highlights the different experiences of Sydney's major ethnic groups, including Chinese and Vietnamese, and suggests that the cause of disadvantage cannot be ascribed solely to globalisation.

The second paper by Cahill presents an analysis of secondary schooling policy in relation to migrants' needs. Drawing on data from the now defunct Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research, the paper stresses the need to develop and maintain policy initiatives for migrants and their children. Cahill reminds the reader that educational strategies need to keep pace with changing migrant demographics.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the education sector has suffered from economic restructuring. Reductions in teaching staff, the devolution and fragmentation of school policy under the guise of autonomy and the impact of information technology have all occurred at a time when Australia's intake of migrants, especially from Asia have created new demands on educational support services. Moreover, taking second and third generation migrant children into account, the number of NESB students has increased proportionately as a factor of the total school population. Consequently, Cahill argues that existing policy has failed to recognise the increasing demand for language education.

Cahill's paper looks at the education system in Australia and questions the bureaucratic decision-making processes which, he argues, are out of touch with the demands of immigrant Australians. It analyses the political decisions and restructuring at state and federal level, and how these conflict with the realities of schooling needs especially in language support.

Turning from education to employment, Collins presents a comprehensive analysis of the demographics of ethnic small business in Australia. As Asia has replaced the United Kingdom and Europe as Australia's main source for immigrants, Collins argues that Asian-Australian business and entrepreneurial activity will become more important in shaping the socio-economic infrastructure of the country.

The paper traces work force participation of Asian Australians and Asian immigrants and contends that there have always been barriers to their participation in wage labour in Australia. This has contributed significantly to the rising self-employment of Asians in Australia.

Collins is careful to distinguish between immigrants from different parts of Asia, noting that participation rates in small business vary according to ethnic or birthplace categories. Specific analysis of the Vietnamese reveals the problems faced by this group in joining the work force at a time when Australia's economy was in recession and unskilled and semi-skilled jobs were scarce. Collins concludes that Asian entrepreneurs, despite an anti-Asian discourse in Australia, are an important factor in employment growth and international trade.

The fourth paper in this volume raises important methodological questions about conducting international comparative research on migration and ethnicity. Inglis points out that globalisation has made such research imperative, but at the same time highlights the inadequacies and biases of comparable data sets.

Inglis suggests that statistical data can be problematic and should not always be the only source for research. Statistical design and collection are themselves socially constructed. Even SOPEMI statistics provided by OECD countries are not collected on matching formulae as Inglis describes. It is clear that a range of alternative data collection strategies are useful in defining central ideas of ethnicity, place of birth, ancestry etc.

The paper also examines discourse and terminology as factors which intersect analysis of migration policy and debate in different countries. Inglis makes the point that multiculturalism, for example, has evolved quite differently in Australia and Canada and therefore affects comparative analysis of ethnicity and migration policy. The issue is much more complex in relation to the emerging concept of citizenship. Overall, the paper provides an important contribution to research methodology, a crucial issue for Australia in the Asia Pacific region.

Jupp explores issues confronting researchers within the context of Australian domestic politics. The author argues that a marginalisation of immigration research has occurred in Australia in recent years and suggests measures to remedy structural problems constraining international immigration and ethnicity research.

Asian and Pacific immigration is a core issue for Australia, and Jupp makes special reference to the importance of research on population mobility from and within China. Australia, according to Jupp, will always be a magnet for the region due to its relative prosperity and abundance of land. Therefore, it is short sighted of Governments to reduce support for such research. The abolition of the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research in Australia is criticised as a key example of poor Government policy.

The final paper by Tsolidis addresses once again the theme of education in a multicultural society. Where Cahill looks at language education and public policy, Tsolidis discusses the importance of educational experience in identity formation. Schools are examined as the link between public and private life for students where ethnic diversity is mediated. Student expectations and socio-cultural conditioning are susceptible to the increased diversity in Australian schools.

Gender and ethnicity formation is examined by Tsolidis through a survey of the experience of Chinese and Vietnamese students. Students were asked to reflect on their aspirations and experiences at school in Australia and overseas. The paper combines this survey data with DEET and ABS statistics on tertiary education attainment rates. Tsolidis argues that with shifting concepts of citizenship and multiculturalism, the ethnic diversity apparent in Australian schools is providing new challenges to understanding identity formation.

    Patrick Brownlee
    APMRN Secretariat

This publication was made possible with the support of the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme of the Social and Human Science Sector of UNESCO. The authors are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this publication and for the opinions expressed herein, which are not necessarily those of, and do not commit, UNESCO.

The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the UNESCO Secretariat concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or the delimitations of its frontiers or boundaries.

The Academy of Social Sciences of Australia provided a grant to hold the initial workshop at which these papers were presented in 1997. Their contribution and support is acknowledged.

For more information, please contact:

    APMRN Secretariat
    Migration & Multicultural Studies
    Institute of Social Change and Critical Inquiry
    University of Wollongong
    Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522
    Telephone: +61 (02) 42 213 780
    Fax: +61 (02) 42 286 313
    E-mail: apmrn@uow.edu.au
    On Internet: http://www.capstrans.edu.au/apmrn/

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