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Developed Country Diasporas: The Example of Australian Expatriates

Diasporas de pays développés : l’exemple des expatriés australiens
Graeme Hugo
p. 181-202


Dans l’abondant corpus de recherches, l’Europe et l’Amérique du Nord se sont principalement intéressées aux migrations en provenance des nations du “Sud”. Pourtant, une proportion non négligeable de leurs populations étrangères, en particulier dans les grandes métropoles, viennent d’autres pays développés. Cet article avance l’idée que ces migrants non seulement sont numériquement importants dans les villes mondiales de l’OCDE mais constituent aussi des communautés significatives qui gardent des liens étroits avec leurs pays d’origine. L’article se penche sur le cas du million d’Australiens vivant à l’étranger, dont la moitié dans les villes mondiales européennes et nord-américaines. À partir d’une étude quantitative et qualitative d’un échantillon d’expatriés australiens, l’article analyse les processus de développement de communautés d’expatriés australiens, leurs caractéristiques et les liens maintenus avec la mère-patrie. Cet article examine l’influence de cette diaspora sur l’Australie et son implication dans la vie économique et sociale des pays d’accueil. Le gouvernement australien a récemment mis en place une enquête sénatoriale sur la diaspora nationale et envisage une série de mesures à son propos, qui sont analysées à la fin de l’article.

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1In the bombings in London on July 7, 2005 some 9 Australians were among the 700 Londoners going about their journey to and from work who were casualties. They were among around 300,000 Australians living and working in the United Kingdom, most of them in the global city of London. In the growing body of research on diasporas in Europe and North America attention has focused on communities originating from south nations but a significant proportion of the foreign groups in their major metropolitan areas are expatriates from other More Developed Countries. This paper argues that these migrants are not only numerically significant in OECD world cities but also that they constitute meaningful communities, maintain significant linkages with their homelands and that there are a number of policy implications which can flow from this.

2The paper commences with a brief consideration of the scale of “north” country diasporas in OECD nations. It then focuses upon one group of “north” expatriates, the one million Australians who are estimated to live and work in foreign nations most of them in large cities [Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2003]. It uses a number of sources of secondary data to establish the size, growth, distribution and characteristics of that diaspora. A study using qualitative and quantitative techniques was made of a sample of the Australian expatriates to delve deeper into the process of development and functioning of the contemporary Australian diaspora in the world cities of OECD nations. In particular it examines the linkages which the diaspora maintains with Australia as well as their involvement in the economy of destination cities. Such is the significance of the diaspora that the Australian Senate recently released a report on Australian expatriates and some of the policy implications of the Australian study are explored.

3There is considerable debate in the literature on the meaning of diaspora. The term expatriates is used to refer to any people who are citizens or permanent residents of a nation but who reside abroad on a long-term or permanent basis. On the other hand, diaspora has its origins in the Greek word “to colonize” and until relatively recently it has been used to refer largely to a group of people who are linked by common ethno-linguistic and/or religious bonds who have left their homeland, usually under some form of coercion, and who have developed a strong identity and mutual solidarity in exile. The Jewish diaspora has been the classic example [Cohen, 1997]. In the contemporary context, with the acceleration in international mobility, the term has been used more broadly to encompass expatriate populations who are living outside of their home countries and retain linkages with their origin countries [Safran, 1991; Vertovec, 1997]. Reis (2004, p. 46) distinguishes between two groups of diaspora theorists: on the one hand are those who focus on “classical” diaspora based on the Jewish archetype, while, on the other, are those who co-mingle contemporary diasporas with issues of transnationalism and globalisation. It is the latter, wider conceptualisation which is adopted in the present study.

Measuring diaspora

4National population censuses are the predominant source for establishing the size and characteristics of the stock of migrants in countries. However from the perspective of national census taking, expatriates are demographically similar to deaths in that information on the people involved cannot be obtained directly from them because they are not living within national boundaries at the time the census is taken. In the case of both, information can be obtained indirectly from other family members still residing in the country but this will not obtain information on all emigration or all mortality. Another approach is to use the censuses of destination nations to put together a picture of the numbers of expatriates residing in those nations. This is facilitated by the synchronisation of national censuses, recommended by the United Nations to be around the beginning of each decade and which is followed by most countries. However, such approaches will underestimate the size of expatriate populations for the following reasons.
(a) Censuses may seek to exclude persons who are not citizens and/or permanent residents, which will exclude some expatriates.
(b) In some cases, expatriates have not got full working rights and avoid being counted in an official census.
(c) Some expatriates avoid being counted in national censuses because they perceive that it is not relevant to them.
(d) The census may not be able to identify all expatriates since it may have only a question on birthplace, which doesn’t necessarily identify expatriates, or it may only have a question on citizenship, which has similar problems.
(e) It excludes second and later generations.
For example, the 2001 census of the United Kingdom counted the number of Australians as 107,817 but other estimates place the number of Australian expatriates in the UK as 300,000 [MacGregor, 2003].

  • 1 Calculated by dividing the number of foreign-born residing in OECD nations and originating in a par (...)

5This, notwithstanding, much can be gained from bringing together census data of destination countries to build up origin/destination matrices of migration. One interesting initiative in this respect has been undertaken by the OECD [Dumont and Lemaitre, 2005], which launched a project in July 2003 to collect from all OECD National Statistics Offices (NSO) data on the stocks of foreign-born populations in order “to obtain by aggregating across receiving OECD countries, data on expatriates by country of origin” [Dumont and Lemaitre, 2005]. This data set makes it possible to calculate emigration rates1 to OECD nations for approximately 100 origin countries. Census data were not available for 6 of the 28 OECD countries so it was necessary to use data from population registers or large scale sample surveys although there remain important gaps such as Italy. Table 1 shows the proportions of the countries of destination that were foreign-born ranging from 0.5 percent in Mexico to 32.6 percent in Luxembourg. From the diaspora perspective, however, the key issue is that the OECD database enables an analysis to be undertaken from the perspective of the sending nations who can analyse the characteristics of their expatriates. The numbers from each world region in the OECD nations are presented in table 2 and indicates that while 44.8 million overseas-born in OECD nations originated from Asia, Africa and South America, some 36.1 million came from other European, North America and Oceania countries.

Table 1. Percentage of foreign-born and non-citizens in the total population in OECD countries

Percentage of Population












Slovak Republic









Czech Republic















United Kingdom





















United States












New Zealand


















Weighted average for above countries



Source: Dumont and Lemaitre 2005, 6

61. In the absence of place-of-birth data for Japan and Korea, it has been assumed that all non-citizens are foreign-born and that nationals are native-born.

Table 2. Region of birth of foreign-born in OECD countries, 2000

7.1 million Africa-born in OECD

16.8 million Asian

15.6 million Latin American

2.4 million North America

5.3 million Caribbean-born

1.2 million Oceania

20.4 million EU 25

12.1 million other Europe

Source: Dumont and Lemaitre 2005

7Another source of data on expatriate populations are the registers and counts maintained by embassies and consulates. Nations vary in the extent to which they make counts of their diaspora. Eritrea actually undertakes a census of its expatriate population [Koser, 2003]. The United States planned to include its overseas citizens in the 2010 census enumeration [US Census Bureau, 2002] but it appears that this is now unlikely [US Government Accountability Office, 2004]). Dumont and Lemaitre (2005) compare census data with the numbers of nationals who are registered abroad by embassies and consulates in five countries. Table 3 shows that for the USA, Australia, France and Switzerland the nationals registered far outnumber those counted in the census. Moreover, it is clear that many, perhaps a majority, of expatriates do not register with their embassies when abroad. It will be noted, however, that in Japan the number counted as living abroad in censuses outnumbers those registered. This number in fact is at odds with the official numbers for the total numbers of Japanese nationals residing in foreign countries for three months or longer who reported to consulates and embassies which reached 911,062 in 2003 (up 4.5 percent from the previous year) among which 619,269 (up 5.5 percent) were long term and 291,293 (up 2.4 percent) were permanent [Iguchi, 2005, p. 18].

Table 3. OECD expatriates in other OECD countries

Table 3. OECD expatriates in other OECD countries

Source: Dumont and Lemaitre, 2005, 10

8Another approach is to utilize population flow data but the reality is that while most OECD nations have developed comprehensive and accurate procedures for monitoring the numbers of people coming into their country, very few do the same for people leaving. In the United States a series of major reviews of migration statistics lament the lack of a comprehensive set of flow statistics regarding emigration [see Levine, Hill and Warren, 1985, for example]. One of the few nations to undertake a comprehensive data collection from all persons leaving the country is Australia. A key issue relates to differentiating emigrants changing their place of 0permanent residence from temporary movers. The obvious pattern is how to define and measure residence, but as Zlotnik (1987, p. 931) indicates ‘the least well defined and most widely used concept to identify migrants is that of residence’. She points out that, in general, ‘countries tend to identify immigrants as non-residents who enter the country with a view to establishing residence (i.e. of becoming residents) and emigrants as residents who intend to give up residence (i.e. become non-residents).’

9Australia differentiates the people leaving the country as follows...

  • Emigrants are Australian residents (including former settlers) departing with the stated intention of residing abroad permanently. Before 1974, former settlers were not classified as emigrants unless they had spent at least 12 months in Australia.

  • Long Term outmovements are departures of Australian residents and citizens who intend to return with the intended or actual length of stay abroad being 12 months or more.

  • Short Term movers are those whose intended stay abroad is less than 12 months. Zlotnik (1987, p. 933-4) is critical of this approach.

Diaspora established by north-north migration

10With the spectacular increase in south-north migration in recent years [United Nations, 2004] there has been a focus on the growth of south communities in north countries and more recently on the potential for these communities to maintain a relationship with their homeland which can, to a greater or lesser extent, offset the negative developmental impacts of brain drain [Newland, 2004]. As important as these issues are, they over-simplify the complexity of the processes of diaspora formation in the OECD. For example it is apparent that all countries experience both emigration and immigration and that both processes have accelerated with globalisation and internationalization of labour markets. Indeed the high levels and strong selectivity of emigration from OECD countries has raised issues of “brain drain” within some of those nations, although the term is usually applied only to emigration of skilled persons and professionals from less developed economies. In fact, in many OECD nations it is more accurate to characterize the situation as either representing “brain gain” or “brain circulation”. In most cases there is an overall net gain of skilled people through migration, with skilled immigrants significantly outnumbering skilled emigrants. However, in several countries there is a net loss to other OECD nations, but an overall net gain when migration from Less Developed Countries is included. The skilled migration experience of countries is very much shaped by their position in the global economy. Broadly speaking, there are three tiers...

  • A small number of large globally central economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan which selectively attract a net gain of skilled workers from other OECD nations as well as from less developed nations. Key elements in this are global cities like London, New York and Tokyo.

  • Other OECD and other developed nations that register a net loss of some skilled workers to the large global economies, but a net gain from less developed nations. Overall, they tend to experience a net gain of skilled workers.

  • Less developed economies tend to experience a flow of skilled migrants to the other two tiers resulting in an overall net loss of skilled nationals.

11Hence, there is an important “cascade” effect in which key global economies are at the apex and the bulk of OECD and newly developed nations of Asia are in the middle and least developed nations are at the base. Moreover the key elements in the system in the first two tiers are major metropolitan areas which are strongly linked into the global economy and which are overwhelmingly the destination of immigrants from both south and north nations.

12OECD nations differ in the extent to which their immigrants originate from other developed countries as is indicated in table 4. The lowest proportions are in the Asian More Developed Countries of Korea and Japan, although the flows of Europeans, Australians and North Americans into Asia are an important increasing trend [Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2001]. On the other hand, Mexico has a high proportion of immigrants from OECD nations, overwhelmingly from the USA, often made up of managers and other skilled persons facilitated by NAFTA as well as the US-born children of returnee migrants. The north-south movement involves expatriates associated with multinational companies transferring managerial and skilled staff due to the mismatch of LDC training systems and their restructuring economies’ demands for skill and, increasingly, inter-country marriage and return migration. Much of this movement is not reflected in the OECD data since that database excludes all African and most Asian and Latin American nations as destinations (although not origins).

13Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, have a large proportion of their migrants from OECD origins, but these are predominantly older immigrants who moved in the first half of the pre-war period, with their more recent migrants including larger percentages of non-OECD origin settlers. The other countries with high proportions of OECD migrants include the Slovak and the Czech Republic, both of which have low levels of immigration, but also smaller nations with significant immigration levels, such as Luxemburg, Ireland, Switzerland and Belgium. These nations have gained the bulk of their increasing numbers of immigrants from within the OECD region. About half the immigrants in Germany and Austria and the Scandinavian nations are from within the OECD region, reflecting the fact that the first two countries received substantial numbers of people of German extraction from the east, and the longstanding intra-Scandinavian migration flows. It is interesting to note that more than 60 per cent of the large inflows of immigrants into France and the UK are of non-OECD origins, and the proportions are even higher in the Mediterranean OECD countries.

Table 4. Percentage of foreign-born persons from OECD countries residing in another OECD country

Country of residence

Total Percent Foreign-born

Percentage of total foreign-born population fromother OECD countries

Number from other OECDcountries

Australia (AUS)




Austria (AUT)




Belgium (BEL)




Canada (CAN)




Switzerland (CHE)




Czech Republic (CZE)




Germany (DEU)




Denmark (DNK)




Spain (ESP)




Finland (FIN)




France (FRA)




United Kingdom (GBR)




Greece (GRC)




Hungary (HUN)




Ireland (IRL)




Iceland (ISL)



Italy (ITA)



Japan (JPN)



Korea (KOR)



Luxembourg (LUX)




Mexico (MEX)




Netherlands (NLD)




Norway (NOR)




New Zealand (NZL)




Poland (POL)




Portugal (PRT)




Slovak Republic (SVK)




Sweden (SWE)




Turkey (TUR)




United States (USA)







Source: Dumont and Lemaitre 2005, 33 and OECD database on immigrants and expatriates

14Turning our attention to the numbers of emigrants moving from one OECD nation to another from an origin perspective, table 5 presents the results from the analysis by Dumont and Lemaitre (2005, p. 33). It must be reiterated that these figures substantially understate the diaspora of the countries but the data are interesting. Unsurprisingly, the largest is the Mexican diaspora, although it undoubtedly substantially understates the real size of the actual number of Mexicans abroad. This is dominated by the flow into the United States, the largest contemporary bilateral migration stream in the world. The next largest expatriate communities are for nations which, while still sending migrants, were in the first half of the post-war period major sending countries of migration settlers to the traditional North American and Australasian immigration countries – Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey, which now send large numbers of workers to Europe. In this respect, too, countries like the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland also have substantial diasporas. France has a significant diaspora, but it is only a third the size of that from the other large European countries of Great Britain and Germany.

Table 5. Stocks of persons originating in one OECD country and residing in another (total population)

Country of Origin


Australia (AUS)


Austria (AUT)


Belgium (BEL)


Canada (CAN)


Switzerland (CHE)


Czech Republic (CZE)


Germany (DEU)


Denmark (DNK)


Spain (ESP)


Finland (FIN)


France (FRA)


United Kingdom (GBR)


Greece (GRC)


Hungary (HUN)


Ireland (IRL)


Iceland (ISL)


Italy (ITA)


Japan (JPN)


Korea (KOR)


Luxembourg (LUX)


Mexico (MEX)


Netherlands (NLD)


Norway (NOR)


New Zealand (NZL)


Poland (POL)


Portugal (PRT)


Slovak Republic (SVK)


Sweden (SWE)


Turkey (TUR)


United States (USA)


Former Czechoslovakia (CSFR)


Source: Dumont and Lemaitre, 2005, 33

15It is interesting that all traditional immigration nations have substantial expatriate communities in other OECD nations. For example, expatriate communities from Canada and New Zealand are largely found in the neighbouring larger countries of the USA and Australia. The size of the USA-born expatriate community in other OECD nations stands at 1.23 million Compared with Australia, the New Zealand diaspora is larger despite a population less than one-sixth that of Australia. The Japanese expatriate community numbers 656,690, indicating that much Japanese migration to other OECD nations is temporary and that expatriates return to Japan after a few years abroad. This is not so much the case for Koreans, who have set up substantial permanent communities in the United States and Australia, for example.

16The OECD report also shows the size of expatriate communities as a percentage of the total native-born population (i.e. expatriates plus those remaining in the home country). The results are presented in figure 1, and show some interesting patterns. Despite substantial recent return migration, at 24 per cent Ireland’s population shows the largest proportion of expatriates. Other substantial proportions are found in New Zealand (16%), Portugal (13.7%), Luxembourg (12.8%) and Mexico (9.9%). They also reveal interesting concentrations of particular expatriate groups in particular countries. While the data in table 4 and table 5 are significant underestimates they do indicate just how significant OECD diaspora are.

Figure 1. Expatriates as a Percentage of all Native-born, OECD Countries

Figure 1. Expatriates as a Percentage of all Native-born, OECD Countries

Source : Dumont and Lemaitre 2005, 10

The Australian diaspora

17In determining a realistic size for current expatriate communities, it is necessary to use additional sources to augment the data that the OECD has done such an excellent service in collecting, analysing and disseminating. To produce more realistic indications of the size of the diaspora of individual countries, it is necessary to look at those nations in detail and consider a range of sources. To demonstrate this we will focus on the diaspora of an individual country, Australia. If census sources alone are examined they yield a total of over 350,000 [Hugo, 2005a]. Unfortunately data could not be obtained for a number of countries with sizeable expatriate Australian populations, such as Italy, Singapore and a number of Pacific nations. The most frequently quoted estimates of Australia’s diaspora are those from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) embassies and consulates that suggest that in 2001 there were 858,866 Australians living in foreign countries and another 264,955 “temporarily present”. It has been difficult to assess the degree of accuracy of those data and, indeed, to establish the methodologies used to collect them in different nations. Figure 2 shows the DFAT estimates for each nation and the limited quality of the data is seen in the obvious over-estimation of the numbers in Greece. Despite the fact that Greece is an important destination of Australian emigrants [Hugo, 1994; Hugo et al., 2001, Hugo, 2005b), especially returning Greek-born immigrants and other Australians with a Greek heritage, it does not have the second-largest expatriate community. The DFAT estimate puts it at 135,000, while less than 20,000 people of Australian, or dual Australian/Greek nationality were counted in the last Greek population census. Nevertheless, the DFAT data give an indicative picture of the extent and size of Australia’s diaspora and show important concentrations in Europe, North America and Asia.

Figure 2. Australian citizens living abroad, 31 December 2001

Figure 2. Australian citizens living abroad, 31 December 2001

Source : Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra

18Australian flow data relating to permanent departures in figure 3 shows that the numbers have increased dramatically in recent years. Indeed, each year has seen a record level of departures. The pattern is even more dramatic if only Australia-born persons among the departures are considered. Settler loss, or departures of former immigrants, has been an important element in Australian post-war migration with more than 20 percent of all permanent arrivals eventually departing [Hugo, 1994; Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2001]. However, the increasing outflow of the Australia-born is a new phenomenon. The figure also demonstrates the substantial increase in long term emigration of Australian residents, although the events of September 11 saw a decline after 2001. The Australian data rely on persons leaving the country indicating their intentions as to whether they would return and when. There are problems associated with the reference to ‘intentions’ as the key element in the definition of emigration, because there are no guarantees that intentions will become reality. Indeed, research into migration intentions indicates that this is often the case. For example, a study by DIMIA of residents leaving Australia “permanently” in 1998-99 found by mid-2003 that 24 percent had returned [Osborne, 2004]. Of course this is counterbalanced to some extent by those who indicate they are leaving Australia on a long term basis but in fact never return.

Figure 3. Permanent and long term departures of residents from Australia, 1959-60 to 2004-05

Figure 3. Permanent and long term departures of residents from Australia, 1959-60 to 2004-05

Source : DIMIA, Australian Immigration Consolidated Statistics and Immigration Update, various issues; DIMIA unpublished data

19The destinations of recent permanent departures are depicted in figure 4 and it is apparent that the dominant destinations are other developed nations including the following...

  • The largest flow is to neighbouring New Zealand with which Australia has a special arrangement which allows more or less free mobility between the nations [Bedford et al., 2003].

  • The second largest flow is to the United Kingdom which partly reflects longstanding linkages having their origins in colonial times as well as the new role of London as a global city attracting highly skilled Australians [Hugo, 2005c].

  • The third largest flow is to the United States and this is the fastest growing emigrant flow associated with the central role of the destination in the global economy especially the cities of New York and Los Angeles.

  • There is a substantial movement to Continental European nations. This is partly return migration of former settlers but is increasingly involving the Australia-born – especially the second generation children of former settlers, many of whom have become dual citizens. Again the movement is overwhelmingly to large cities in Europe.

  • There is a substantial flow to Asia but it is overwhelmingly directed toward the high income rapid growth city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore but increasingly too to rapidly growing China. The Asian movement is almost totally to the megacities of the region.

Figure 4. Australia : Total permanent departures, 1993 to 2004

Figure 4. Australia : Total permanent departures, 1993 to 2004

Source : DIMIA Immigration update, various issues

20It is apparent that global cities are a key component in the Australian diaspora indeed virtually all move to major cities. To take the example of the United Kingdom, the 2001 census detected 107,866 Australia-born residents and of these 41,486 (38.5 percent) lived in the London region. It has been argued [Hugo, 2006] that there is a form of the escalator effect [Fielding, 1992; Chapman, 2004]. This model has been developed to explain internal migration and involves three stages of movement.
Stage 1: The ER (escalator region or city) attracts many young people with potential in the early stages of their working lives – i.e. they step on the escalator by moving to the ER.
Stage 2: The ER provides the context where these immigrants achieve accelerated upward social mobility as they progress in their working life – i.e. they move up the escalator by living and working in the ER.
Stage 3: The ER then loses many of these people who step off the escalator and move to a higher order city or region building on the economic and social capital they have accumulated while in the ER.
In the Australian case there is a combination of internal and international migration involved. As Australia’s world city [Hugo, 2006], Sydney attracts selectively young highly educated, highly skilled migrants from elsewhere in Australia. Indeed there is a net internal migration loss of other age categories. There is some evidence that Sydney has become a launching point of these young people who spend some years gaining experience and developing networks in Sydney then emigrating to higher order world cities either on transfer in multinational companies or successfully applying for jobs within increasingly international labour markets. The key point is that the Australian expatriate community is an overwhelmingly urban based one and it tends to concentrate in the global [Sassen, 1991] and world cities [Friedmann, 1986] of Europe and North America

Who are the expatriates?

21Like all migration, that from one OECD nation to another is highly selective. While data are lacking we can identify a number of consistent patterns. Expatriate communities are quite young and the Australian patterns are instructive.

22Figure 5 shows that both permanent and long term departures of the Australia-born are dominated by young adults although in the former case it is young families while in the latter it is somewhat younger adult singles or couples with few dependent children. It is apparent, however, that the flow into large global cities is predominantly young adult singles and couples and not families with children. It is apparent, however, that the flow into large global cities is predominantly young adults and not families with children.

23Figure 6, for example, shows the age-sex composition of the Australia-born population in London in 2001. Even given the fact that some of the Australia-born had UK-born children it is clear that families with children are underrepresented among the expatriate Australian population in London. The female dominance among young adults is also in evidence.

24These age-sex structures reflect the fact that the outflow from Australia comprises a number of components...

  • There is a significant flow of former migrants to Australia with around one fifth of such settlers choosing to subsequently leave the country [Hugo et al., 2001; Hugo, 1994]. The age structure of this group tends to be bimodal with a predominance of people in their 30s and early 40s but also a significant number in the retiree group. This group (apart from any accompanying children born to them while they are in Australia) will not show up as Australians in destination country censuses.

  • Related to this group is a significant number of second generation adult children of former immigrant settlers who use their international European citizenship to return to their parents origin countries on a permanent or temporary basis. This is especially true of Australians of Greek and Italian heritage.

  • There is a substantial “rite of passage” migration with young adults traveling to foreign countries (especially Europe and especially the United Kingdom) on working holidays often extending over several years.

  • Career related migration which has increased with the internationalisation of labour markets for skilled workers and the increased activity of multinational companies

Figure 5. Australia – Permanent and long-term departures of the Australian-born, 2001-02

Figure 5. Australia – Permanent and long-term departures of the Australian-born, 2001-02

Source : DIMIA Movements Data Base

Figure 6. London : Age-Sex Structure of the Australian-born Population, 2001

Figure 6. London : Age-Sex Structure of the Australian-born Population, 2001

Source : UK National Statistics Office

25In the Australian case there are variations between destination cities in the balances of males and females. There has traditionally been more women than men move from Australia to the United Kingdom and at the 2001 census there were only 81.2 Australia-born males for every 100 female counterparts and there was an even greater imbalance in London (76.7). However table 6 shows that the female dominance in the migration to the UK is not replicated for several other destinations. In particular males outnumber females in the movement to the USA, the second major destination. This reflects some difference in the types of movement to the two destinations. The movement to the UK involves considerable long standing patterns of rite of passage migration whereby many young Australians aged in their twenties have had extended working holidays in the former colonial metropole. Not only has this been occurring for over a century it has always been female dominated [Woollacott, 2005]. In the US, on the other hand, the dominant movement of Australians is of young skilled, highly educated professionals seeking career advancement [Hugo et al., 2003].

Table 6. Australia: Sex Ratios (Males per 100 Females) of Permanent Departures by top 10 Destination Countries, 2000-2001 to 2004-05

Australia Born

Overseas Born

New Zealand









Hong Kong






China excl. Taiwan












Taiwan Province of China



Source: DIMIA unpublished data

26A distinctive feature of the Australian expatriate population is that they are selectively drawn from skilled, highly educated groups. For example, table 7 shows a concentration in the managerial and professional occupations. It is apparent that the labour markets for these types of jobs are now international and that in those labour markets many of the most sought after jobs are in major global cities and necessitate international migration. Moreover destination countries are selective in whom they will grant a work permit or temporary or permanent residence to and that selectivity is usually based on skill and education.

27A survey of over 2,000 Australian expatriates based on alumni records of Australian universities gives some insights into the characteristics of expatriate communities [Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2003]. Table 8 shows some characteristics of Australian expatriates in the main destination cities. They are dominated by young adults, often with partners, although only a third have children. They are characterised by very high levels of labour force participation, high education levels and high income.

Table 7. Australia: Permanent Departures by Occupation, 1997-98 to 2004-2005



Australia Born

Overseas Born

Australia Born

Overseas Born

1.Manager & Administrators










3.Associate Professionals










5.Advanced Clerical & Sales





6.Intermediate Clerical, Sales & Service





7.Intermediate Production & Transport





8.Elementary Clerical, Sales & Service





9. Labourers










Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Table 8. Australian emigrants: Selected characteristics of respondents by major destination countries



USA & Canada%

UK & Ireland%


Other overseas %


Born in Australia






With Australian citizenship






Left Australia 1990-2002






Aged <35 years












Married (including partnerships)






Families with children






In the labour force






In labour force full-time






Employed on contracts






Employed as professionals






With postgraduate degree






Home owners






income >AUS$200,000






Source: Emigration Survey, 2002

Linkages maintained with country of origin

28One of the more universal findings in migration studies is that migration is both shaped by, and in turn strengthens, social networks between origin and destination areas [Massey et al., 2005]. Indeed maintenance and development of such networks is one of the defining features of diaspora [Hugo, 2006]. Much of the literature relating to these networks and their functions relates to migrant communities from Less Developed Countries and on their role as conduits for remittances, knowledge transfer, Foreign Direct Investment and return migration which can have positive developmental impacts in origin countries [e.g. Lucas, 2003]. There is little study, however, of the networks developed by diaspora and linking north countries. Study of Australians living in the cities of foreign countries suggests that the following types of networks involving diaspora have been increasing in recent years.

  • Personal networks maintained by expatriates with family and friends in the origin countries.

  • Networks maintained within expatriate communities. These may be of a professional nature (e.g. Chambers of Commerce) or simply a vehicle for expatriates from a given country to engage socially with fellow expatriates. While in the past such networks have been single-country based or, in some cases, confined to a city or region of a country, in recent years there has been a proliferation of international networks of expatriates.

  • Networks of expatriates fostered, sponsored or developed by origin country governments to provide a mechanism to enable expatriates to identify with their origins.

  • Networks of expatriates created by professional groups in countries of origin to enable professionals in a particular area to interact with their fellow countrymen in the same profession in the diaspora.

  • Alumni networks of graduates from educational institutions in countries of origin that incorporate graduates who have settled both in the homeland and in other nations.

  • Networks in countries of origin that include ex-expatriates who have returned to their homeland and wish to maintain active contacts with nationals with the same experience. Such networks also serve to assist returning expatriates to readjust to life in their homeland.

29Fieldwork indicates that these networks have increased in number, size, strength and breadth of activity in recent years. An important element in this has been the development of information and communication technology, in particular the internet. This has clearly facilitated the ability for groups to interact regardless of where they are. The possibility of doing so has been or particular importance for the networks that operate over long distances, such as between countries of origin and destination and among expatriates living in different destination countries. Indeed, such technological developments, together with declining fees for long-distance telephone calls, have been a critical factor in the growth and maintenance of these networks. Moreover, the immediacy and intimacy offered by both telephone and email have greatly facilitated the maintenance of close contacts with people and all aspects of life at home for expatriates. Newspapers published in the country of origin can be accessed by expatriates through the internet in ‘real’ time allowing them to stay in touch with events in their home country.

30There has been some study of expatriate networks in the Australian context and it is useful here to summarize some of the relevant findings [Hugo, 2004]:

  • Expatriate networks have been crucial to the lobbying of the Australian government on issues of deep concern to expatriates. They were instrumental in persuading the government to introduce dual citizenship for the first time in 2002. They are currently engaged in securing the right for expatriates to be able to vote in Australian elections.

  • Expatriate networks facilitate business activities in destination cities.

  • The network among Australian mining engineers, an area in which Australia has a great deal of expertise and experience, has resulted in Australian mining companies, suppliers of mining equipment, consultants, mining service providers, etc. gaining a large amount of business in foreign nations.

  • New information and communication technologies not only allow expatriates to keep abreast of events in Australia, they also facilitate intimate contact with family and friends. As Azure (2003, p. 33) writes in a collection of short essays by Australian expatriates...

When I open emails from loved ones, I hear the words read to me in their voices.
My heart aches because it is pulled and stretched across seas, across lands, to encompass births, deaths, marriages, first homes, losing a job, gaining a job, major successes, major setbacks. When the phone receiver is replaced I smile in a distant land.

31Hence, Australians living in world cities overseas are better able to interact with relatives and friends in an intimate manner than expatriates of earlier generations, and this undoubtedly is a factor in strengthening relations with home. The greater affordability of international phone calls and the development of the internet mean that expatriates can contact or speak directly on a daily basis with friends and relatives, whereas in the past such regular intimate contact was simply not possible. It was apparent from discussions with expatriates that electronic communication with “home” had an important reinforcing effect on their connection with Australia and on their identity as Australians.

Return migration

32A longstanding generalisation about migration is that any flow of migrants results in a flow in the opposite direction. This was first identified in 1885 by Ravenstein in his so-called “Laws of Migration” (1885; 1889). While these opposing flows differ in size and composition from the initial movements, an important element are returnees who were formerly part of the immigrant flow. Return migration of expatriates consists of a number of components, including the following:

  • Many expatriates leave with the full intention of returning sooner or later to their home country. A recent survey in Australia, for example, found that half of Australian expatriates interviewed had definite intentions of returning to Australia, while only 17.2 per cent definitely intended not to return [Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2003]. Of course, such intentions are not always carried through, but it does point to the fact that much emigration of expatriates from OECD nations is circular in nature.

  • Some expatriates return because of a change in their circumstances at the destination. The death of a family member, divorce or other such event may trigger their return.

  • Others return because of events in the home country. These can be of a personal nature, for example the inheritance of property, or of a societal nature such as a change in the political regime that expatriates consider favourable.

  • Some expatriates return because they reach a stage in their life when they believe they would be better off in their home country. For example, many young expatriates from OECD nations decide to return to their home country when they begin to form a family, have children and wish for their children to grow up in their home country.

33It is interesting that from the few available studies relating to the return of expatriates from OECD nations, it is evident that economic factors are generally not the crucial determinants of return. In particular, considerations such as life style, security, the importance of children growing up with frequent interaction with grandparents, housing costs, the possibility for children to grow up in a context similar to that in which their parents were raised, etc., appear to be the key motivations for wishing to return to heir homeland. As can be seen, these are motivations that tend to be associated with a particular stage of the life cycle - the early family formation years of people around the ages of 30 and 40. Hence, it would seem that efforts to attract back expatriates should preferably be concentrated on people at this stage of the life cycle to be effective.

34In addition, it is clear that the people least likely to be motivated to return to their homeland are those who have entered into a relationship with a national at the destination, and have children who are citizens of, and have grown up in, the destination country. Though they often continue to identify strongly with their homeland, these expatriates have no intention of ever returning to it on a permanent basis. On the other hand, they often maintain linkages with relevant networks in their homeland and visit it on a regular basis to interact with colleagues within their professional area.

An expatriate policy?

35A number of nations have initiated an expatriate policy because they have either recognized that their expatriate populations can play a significant economic role in the development of their homelands, or because of an ethno-cultural imperative to maintain the homeland’s heritage among the diaspora. Most of these are in less developed countries and only very few in OECD nations. There are some exceptions, though. For example, France, through organizations like the Alliance Française has developed institutions to sustain and maintain francophone communities around the world, and ensure that the French language and culture are preserved and even enhanced in destination countries. In the UK, organizations like the British Council have played a significant role in terms of the preservation and dissemination of English language and culture. Successive Italian governments have funded activities of Italian expatriate communities that are targeted at maintaining language, culture and linkages to Italy and expatriates sit in the Italian Parliament. In general, however, there has been little in the way of comprehensive efforts to develop policies and programmes in OECD nations in relation to their respective diasporas.

The australian diaspora and policy

36In October 2003 the Australian Senate established an inquiry into Australia’s diaspora with the following terms of reference...

  • The extent of the Australian diaspora

  • The variety of factors driving more Australians to live overseas.

  • The costs, benefits and opportunities presented by the phenomenon.

  • The needs and concerns of overseas Australians.

  • The measures taken by comparable countries to respond to the needs of expatriates.

  • Ways in which Australia can better use its expatriates to promote economic, social and cultural interests.

37This reflected an increasing national discourse on emigration, a spectacular rise in the number of Australia-born leaving the country on a permanent basis and strong lobbying from Australian expatriate groups. Australia was not experiencing a net brain drain with the numbers of immigrants in all skill areas outnumbered the number of emigrants [Hugo, 1994; Birrell et al., 2001] however, there were concerns that...

  • Australia may be losing its “brightest and best” whose loss is disproportionately large due to their innovation, entrepreneurship and economic, social, cultural and political leadership

  • There may be a net loss of highly skilled people in particular important niches, [e.g. mathematics, Wood (ed.), 2004]

  • There was a strong feeling among expatriate organisations that they were “the forgotten Australians” and were disenfranchised from aspects of Australian life they wished to be involved in.

38The Senate Committee brought down its report in March 2005 [Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, 2005]. It made 16 recommendations including...

  • Measures to improve better provision of information to expatriates.

  • Establishing a policy unit on expatriates within DFAT.

  • Improve statistical information on expatriates.

  • Revise consular role of missions to better engage expatriates.

  • Improved registration of expatriates in missions.

  • Amend Citizenship Act in a number of ways including to enable children of former Australian citizens to apply for Australian citizenship.

  • Enable some expatriates to remain on Electoral enrolment

  • Encourage non-profit organisations to pursue philanthropic contributions from expatriate Australians.

39These recommendations have yet to be taken up although they provide a basis for an overdue recognition of the significance of the diaspora and enhancing its engagement in mainstream Australian life. However it would seem that some opportunities were missed to fully develop a blueprint which would fully recognise that in a globalising world the Australian community comprises more than those who live within its national boundaries and which would fully engage them in the economic, social, cultural and political development of Australia. What are some of these opportunities? ...

  • Firstly, there is scope for the development of programs which would encourage direct involvement in Australia’s economy. Through AUSTRADE, DFAT has an agency which facilitates Australian enterprises to export. There clearly are some opportunities for this agency to more directly use Australians overseas in their activities. Expatriate Australians can be the bridgeheads for the export of Australian goods and services. Good examples here are the mining and wine industries. In both these sectors the Australian industries and training system are well developed best practice global leaders. Hence, Australians trained in these areas are highly sought after in the global labour market and are strategically placed in these industries around the world. This has in turn led to Australian equipment and services in these industries being sought by organizations employing these expatriates. This model needs to be investigated and can perhaps be applied in other areas.

  • Secondly, one area where there has been considerable emigration of Australians is in the area of academics, scientists and researchers. Programs to encourage them linking with Australian-based counterparts through programs of visits, joint research activity, etc., could result in rapid knowledge transfer and enhancement of innovation within Australia [Hugo, 2005b].

  • There are a considerable number of Australian expatriates who have the desire to return to Australia and research is needed to establish what is required to operationalise this desire among expatriates. Australia has a well developed immigration program designed to attract skilled immigrants to the country. Can this be modified to facilitate the return migration of Australians? There is evidence to show that while Australians may be attracted overseas in the early stages of their career many are ready to return when they begin family formation and have a desire for their children to grow up as Australians with access to extended family. Thus there may be ways in which return movement of people with skills in shortage can be encouraged.

  • Much of the literature and policy with relation to diaspora in less developed countries focuses on the role of expatriates in remittances and investment (personal and from the businesses they work for) in the homeland. Australia’s diaspora is a highly selective one of highly skilled, high income people who often occupy senior positions in the organizations they work for. They hence may well be sources of investment in Australia. Fullilove and Flutter (2005, p. 61) estimate that expatriate Australians donate A$80 million each year to philanthropic causes.

  • There may be scope to introduce particular programs to attract back expatriates seen to be of particular importance. For example, a recent study [Walton, 2005] argued that the once celebrated Australian Film Industry has entered a period of decline which in part has been a function of a draining overseas of skilled, creative artists and technicians.


40Dade (2004) has argued that among the challenges, which have confronted nation states as a result of globalisation, is the rise of transnational communities which has blurred the distinction between foreign and local. He maintains that no longer can nation states afford to only follow development strategies which are exclusively domestic in focus. Although nation states have done much to accommodate globalisation through making the domestic structural economic adjustments to enhance international trade they have been slower to realise the potential of migration and diaspora to deliver dividends in a globalising world. Even in a nation, which is arguably more influenced by international migration than any of the world’s medium or large nations, this realisation has been slow to come.

41Australia is “hard-wired” internationally both by its substantial communities of immigrants in world cities and their descendents linking with their homeland and its expatriate community’s networks with Australia. However there is a dearth of interest in either set of networks among government. Indeed virtually all of the activity in both arises out of the communities themselves. In Australia ethnic based organisations are crucial elements in enhancing and developing diaspora linkages while the same is true of an emerging group of Australian expatriate organisations. The bulk of networks linking diaspora and origin remain family-based linkages.

42While there is a lack of policy interest in diaspora at home and abroad, in Australian government it is also true that there is little or no research in this area to provide an evidence-base for program development and policy formulation. This is because the research agenda is still predominantly locked in the paradigm of migration, which dominated in the first five postwar decades, and focused exclusively on permanent settlement of immigrants in Australia.

  • 2 Presentation to Conference on African Migration and Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective, Johann (...)

43Globalisation has seen an exponential increased flow across national borders of money, goods, people and ideas and transnational networks of all kinds proliferate. These developments have threatened to undermine several aspects of the nation state as the dominant entity for organizing policies, economic development, culture and identity [Castles, 2003]. This has led to a significant shift in thinking among many social sciences in the way in which they approach and study political, social and economic phenomenon and processes and also of the “spatial envelope” in which they study them. For example, Portes2 has said that it is impossible to understand the sociology of many nations without considering their diaspora. Reis (2004) in a similar vein has written...

44The emphasis or adherence to the state centric model in the realm of international relations has contributed to the sidelining of entities known as diaspora as a valuable unit of analysis. In this sense, the nation state cannot account for certain features in the emerging global political economy, which can be better explained by using diaspora.

45It is the contention here that such comments can equally be made about the population geographies and demographies of many nation states and in the world cities in those states. To ignore the diaspora is to omit consideration of an important element in national and city populations who are influential in a number of important social, economic and political areas. It is not only, however, that demographers and population scholars need to be aware of the diaspora in analyses of population phenomenon, processes and problems at a national level. They also play an important role in shaping how national populations are to be defined for other purposes. Hence, their influence gives far beyond their own disciplinary boundaries since they shape how much economic, social, political and cultural data are collected as well as demographic information.

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1 Calculated by dividing the number of foreign-born residing in OECD nations and originating in a particular country by the total natives from that country, including those no longer living in the country [Dumont and Lemaitre, 2005, p. 28]. Note that this is a stock rate not a flow rate of emigration.

2 Presentation to Conference on African Migration and Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective, Johannesburg, South Africa, 4-7 June, 2003

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Table des illustrations

Titre Table 3. OECD expatriates in other OECD countries
Crédits Source: Dumont and Lemaitre, 2005, 10
Fichier image/png, 13k
Titre Figure 1. Expatriates as a Percentage of all Native-born, OECD Countries
Légende Source : Dumont and Lemaitre 2005, 10
Fichier image/png, 15k
Titre Figure 2. Australian citizens living abroad, 31 December 2001
Légende Source : Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra
Fichier image/png, 31k
Titre Figure 3. Permanent and long term departures of residents from Australia, 1959-60 to 2004-05
Légende Source : DIMIA, Australian Immigration Consolidated Statistics and Immigration Update, various issues; DIMIA unpublished data
Fichier image/png, 34k
Titre Figure 4. Australia : Total permanent departures, 1993 to 2004
Légende Source : DIMIA Immigration update, various issues
Fichier image/png, 40k
Titre Figure 5. Australia – Permanent and long-term departures of the Australian-born, 2001-02
Légende Source : DIMIA Movements Data Base
Fichier image/png, 19k
Titre Figure 6. London : Age-Sex Structure of the Australian-born Population, 2001
Légende Source : UK National Statistics Office
Fichier image/png, 8,9k
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Graeme Hugo, « Developed Country Diasporas: The Example of Australian Expatriates », Espace populations sociétés, 2006/1 | 2006, 181-202.

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Graeme Hugo, « Developed Country Diasporas: The Example of Australian Expatriates », Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2006/1 | 2006, mis en ligne le 04 novembre 2016, consulté le 24 mars 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/eps.1218

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Graeme Hugo

National Centre for Social Applications of Geographic Information Systems
Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies
School of Social Sciences
Level 7, Napier Building
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005

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