Where do we emigrate to?

29 September 2016
People choose to leave Australia permenantly for a variety of reasons – so where do we go?

For those who are Australian born, most emigrate overseas for economic reasons, such as starting a new job. For overseas born emigrants, the most common reasons for leaving are family related, such as homesickness or a death in the family.

Emigration from Australia has increased significantly since the 1990s, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics advising that more than 287,000 people left the country permanently in the years 2014/15. This upwards trend is likely to continue, due to the ever increasing internationalisation of labour markets and global demand for highly skilled employees.

The Australian Government has compiled relevant statistics on the top destinations for Australian emigrants, which can be read in greater detail here. These statistics are taken from 2012-2013, which is when the last meaningful data on emigration was recorded.


The top countries we emigrate to

44% of all Australian emigrants move to one of New Zealand, The UK or The United States.  Following these three, there are four other countries that the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection found to include a large number of Australian emigrants.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Cityscape

Approximately 8.1% of Australian emigrants – or 7431 people – left the country for Hong Kong in 2012-13, making it the 4th most popular destination behind the UK, USA and New Zealand.

Hong Kong is an autonomous territory located on the South Coast of China, and it has a population of roughly 7.2 million people, which is quite a lot considering it has a total land area of just 1104 km2. Since the 1970s, Hong Kong has been recognised as a major global trading hub and financial centre, laying claim to the 44th largest economy in the world, which again is impressive given its size.

In terms of geography, Hong Kong is surrounded the South China Sea on all sides except the north, and it consists of over 200 small offshore islands as well as the mainland. Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers that often lead to typhoons. It is situated just south of the tropic of cancer, so winters are rarely too cold.

Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui

Hong Kong is one of the world’s major tourist destinations, and its culture is heavily based on the Cantonese. Hong Kong culture shares a lot of similarities with China, right down to food, festivals and entertainment.


China Shanghai

China is well known as the world’s most populous country, home to approximately 1.3 billion people. It is also the world’s second largest country in terms of land, covering 9.6 million square kilometres.

China is an extremely popular destination for Australians, with 7% of all emigrants moving there. Due to China’s position as the world’s second largest economy, many choose to move there for financial reasons.

The landscape of china varies significantly across the country due to its enormous size. Southern China consists of low mountain ranges, the North is dominated by broad grasslands, and the West is the home of major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas.  The climate also varies significantly between winter in summer, and the years are dominated by dry seasons and monsoon seasons. China is also losing roughly 4000km2 per year due to desertification.

China’s culture varies across the country due to its extreme size and high population. There are seven different dialects spoken in China, with the majority being Mandarin, which accounts for 71.5% of the speaking population. China places a great emphasis on the arts, which were an integral part of early Chinese culture. Citizens also highly value hard work, which has allowed it to become the economic powerhouse it is today.



According to the government website, Singapore is a very popular destination for Australian-born emigrants, accounting for 10% of all Australian departures.

Singapore is the world’s only island city-state, and is located in Southeast Asia, 137 kilometres north of the equator. It has a population of 5.5 million people, within a 719km2 area. Like Hong Kong, it is considered to be a global commerce and financial hub, as it has the world’s 36th largest GDP despite its miniscule size.

Singapore consists of a total of 63 islands, and has grown in size from 581km2 in the 1960s due to land reclamation projects. It is a very environmentally friendly country, with 10% of its land set aside for national parks and nature reserves to protect endangered species. This is due to five decades of greening efforts which began in 1963 to reduce urbanization.  It has a tropical rainforest climate, consisting of high humidity and abundant rainfall.

Singapore is made up of many languages, cultures and religions. English is technically the first language, but 20% of residents are not able to speak it. This makes it quite unlike most countries in the world, as it does not have a certain culture that defines it.

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

4.6% of emigrations from Australia are to the United Arab Emirates. It is located in the Southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, and borders Oman and Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar and Iran by sea. It has a total population of roughly 9 million, but only 1.4 million of them are Emirati citizens. The rest are all expatriates.

The UAE is one of the world’s richest and most quickly developing countries, thanks to their oil reserves, which are the seventh largest in the world. The country has a very arid climate, with an average annual rainfall of less than 120mm. The South and West consist of vast sand dunes and deserts, with extremely sparse plant and animal life.

Emirati culture is heavily based on Arabian culture. It has drawn heavy criticism from human rights organisations for its continued use of sharia law in the federal court system, and ranks poorly when it comes to national freedom. Criticism of the government is not allowed in the UAE, and flogging and stoning are legal punishments.


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