Since World War II, migrants or the children of migrants have provided 50 per cent of population increase and almost 60 per cent of workforce growth. As at 2001, 23 per cent of the population were overseas born, one of the highest shares for any country. Migrant labour directly increased Australia's postwar gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate by 42 per cent (Withers 1999). In this sense, modern Australia is a product of immigration.
In the Australian pragmatic tradition, there has been much focus in public discussion and in research on the linkages between immigration and the economy. In public debate over immigration, economic issues are often a central element. On the one hand, many supporters of substantial immigration base their position on immigration's perceived role in Australian development and prosperity. On the other hand, many opponents of high immigration take that position because of their concern that immigration is a source of national economic problems. In scholarly discussion, the economics of immigration has been a distinctive concern of Australian economists, as with like areas such as agricultural economics and international trade. For Australian economics the interdependence between resources, people and cross-border movements has been an abiding theme. 1
In the early postwar period, major names in Australian economics, such as Karmel, Corden, Bensusan-Butt, Kmenta and Arndt, found immigration a topic worthy of their close attention. In more recent times, economists such as Chapman, Cobb-Clark, Creedy, Junankar, McDonald, Nevile, Norman, Pope and others have been ongoing contributors. A recent trend has been for economic consultancies such as Econtech, Access Economics and the Centre for International Economics to provide valuable commissioned studies in the field. However, a brief flurry of high-quality official research work in the 1990s under the aegis of the Bureau of Immigration, Population and Multicultural Research stopped when that organisation was abolished in 1996.
The early postwar focus was upon the short-run macroeconomic impacts of immigration, and analysis in this vein has continued ever since. It has, however, diminished a little following the floating of the exchange rate in 1983 and the subsequent flow-on reforms that served to mute the traditional balance-of-payments crises and induced wage-inflation of concern to earlier economists. But it has become complemented by