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Geographic Influences on Migration Patterns in Australia & the Pacific Islands

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  • 0:01 What Is Migration?
  • 0:55 Australia & New Zealand
  • 2:37 The Pacific Islands
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After viewing this lesson, you should be able to describe the migration patterns in Australia and the Pacific Islands and suggest some reasons for those patterns. A short quiz will follow.

What Is Migration?

Some say that life is movement; movement is change, and things are always changing. Humans are no exception - we travel and spread out across the world. People are proud of their family's history, of their migration, and the heritage that brings with it. Human migration is the seasonal or long-term movement of humans from one area of the Earth to another. If you move to a new city, you're a migrant. Or if you travel to find seasonal work, you're also a migrant.

Humans migrate for many different reasons: for jobs, to look for a better life, to flee from persecution, or to escape a natural disaster. Some of the reasons are economic, some social, and some physical. Today we're going to focus on the migration patterns of Australia and the Pacific Islands: what they are and why the patterns exist.

Migration Patterns of Australia & New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are developed countries with high living standards. So, it shouldn't be surprising that they have net migration into their countries. Those levels of migration are carefully controlled using points systems that prioritize highly educated and skilled people who are of value to the country.

The most common origin country is the United Kingdom, since they have strong ties to the UK from the days of the British Empire. They remain commonwealth countries to this day, and still have the Queen on their currency. Between 2004 and 2013, the UK was the greatest source of immigrants to New Zealand, though India and China finally overtook the UK in 2014. It's a similar story in Australia, where only India and China regularly beat the UK in immigration.

Clearly, there are no physical geographical reasons for this migration, since the UK is almost exactly on the opposite side of the world from Australia. People definitely aren't moving from the UK out of convenience. Since most migration to and from both countries relates to reuniting family, migration out of Australia and New Zealand is generally to these same three countries. Nearby countries, like the Philippines and Fiji, are also significant.

Migration to Australia continues to increase year by year. The government limits and quotas are being increased, but this is in response to demand. Without limits, immigration would no doubt be much higher. Immigration in New Zealand has been fairly static numerically, though it saw a significant increase in the early 21st century. Some might argue that this was partly due to the Lord of the Rings movies, which brought the beauty of the country to the attention of people abroad; certainly, it had a dramatic impact on tourism to the country.

Migration Patterns of the Pacific Islands

On many of the Pacific Islands, mobility is a part of life. Many would say that migration is in their blood - after all, the original settlers of the Pacific Islands traveled thousands of miles across the sea to find the islands. Even the original islanders kept strong ties between groups of islands: psychologically, it was helpful to have such ties, and today these ties are important for the trade and economic stability of the islands. To this day, many islanders are inclined to migrate and travel, and many of them leave the island on which they were born.

There are many Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian people in the western United States. But the people of the Pacific Islands also often move to Australia and New Zealand or to other Pacific islands. Many Pacific Islanders moved to Australia and New Zealand shortly after World War II to help meet labor shortages. Fijians and Filipinos, in particular, continue to move to Australia and New Zealand in large numbers to this day.

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