The latest migration numbers from the ABS show that 29.3 percent of all people of working age (calculated as aged 20-64) were born overseas. Add people with at least one parent born overseas and the figure is close to half the population. That should mean your workplace is a melting pot of cultures. Let's hope so, because if you sell to the domestic market, your customer base comprises that same mix.
There's no doubt there are advantages to ethnic diversity in the workplace. If you understand foreign cultures, you'll know how to sell to them. Living on Asia's doorstep that's an advantage you can't do without. There's also the argument that diversity of any sort - like bringing women into senior roles - brings new ways of fixing problems and coming up with bright ideas.
Migrants in Australia come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Many, myself included, come in the form of pale white poms, with a culture very close to mainstream Australia. In fact, we make up 21 percent of all working age migrants and 6 percent of the total working-age population, but we probably don't add too much in terms of diversity.
The real difference comes from those with a non-English-speaking background, who make up two-thirds of all working age migrants. In Victoria and NSW it's as high as 75 percent; if you look at a CV and shun a foreign sounding name you're ignoring a quarter of the population.
Asia, of course, accounts for a lot of our migrants. A quarter of working-age migrants from non-English-speaking countries come from China, Vietnam and India; 78 percent of them live in Victoria and NSW, yet only 14 percent have settled in WA and Queensland.
And herein lies a big issue: if migration is to constitute a big part of the country's growth, we need to embrace all nationalities, everywhere. Yet, for whatever reason, WA , SA and Queensland seem to have focused on English-speaking newcomers. How does Queensland expect to service Asian markets when only 11 percent of the workforce was born in a non-English speaking country?
There's been a lot of talk about migration programs forcing newcomers to spend some time living in the bush, forcing them to look for jobs where they don't exist. Hardly a commonsense approach. Instead, why not insist they spend a few years in Brisbane or Perth, helping the economy to expand. Or a less dictatorial approach would be to find out why ethnicity hasn't spread northwards and westwards and try and fix the issue. I suspect a big part of it comes down to educating people on the benefits - migrants and residents alike.
First published by CBS.