Since 1990 Australia's economy has powered ahead with a 3.0% rate of compound annual growth. Take out population growth of 1.4% per year, and the economy has only grown around 1.6% per year in per capita terms. Australia isn't an economic miracle. It's a demographic miracle.
Since 1990 Australia's population has grown from 17 million to nearly 25 million, an increase of nearly 50%. Most of that growth has come from immigration. A child is born in Australia every 1 minute and 44 seconds. Someone moves to Australia every 53 seconds.
The main sources of long-term immigration to Australia are permanent migrants, refugees and people on business long stay ("subclass 457") visas. Permanent migrants are allotted 190,000 places a year, of whom about two-thirds are admitted on the basis of skills and another one-third for family reunion. Refugee flows come to a little less than 20,000 a year. And until recently, 457 business visas were granted at a rate of around 100,000 a year.
Until recently, because the 457 visa program will be abolished in 2018. The program, originally established in 1996 to meet targeted skills shortages, expanded dramatically in the mid-2000s. Allegations of abuse led to a crackdown in 2013. Now the category will be eliminated entirely, to be replaced by a new, more restrictive Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa program in March 2018.
The 457 visa program was designed to help business fill critical positions when people with appropriate skills couldn't be found in Australia's limited labor pool. In more recent years, the number one 457 visa occupation has been "cook." That's not even "chef" or "restaurant manager," which are both further down in the top 20. It means a cook, usually at a small family restaurant or cafe.
Addressing abuses in the 457 program, which was widely considered a backdoor to permanent residence and ultimate citizenship, the new TSS program is designed to make it much harder for people to stay in Australia. The government has also attempted to tighten up English language requirements for existing permanent residents who want to become citizens. Though it has faced major opposition in the Australian Senate, the Turnbull government plans to push forward with a watered down version of its proposals to limit immigration.
(Full disclosure: I am myself a permanent migrant to Australia who initially arrived on a 457 visa as a university lecturer, though I have no plans to apply for Australian citizenship.)
Always room for more?
Luxembourg and Switzerland may have more immigrants than Australia, but most of their immigrants come from neighboring European countries like Germany and France. Their immigrants share a culture and usually a language with the host population. As recently as 2010, the same was true for Australia, where the United Kingdom was the leading source of immigrants. But in recent years the picture has changed dramatically.
Since 2011, first China and then India became the leading sources of permanent migration into Australia.