SYDNEY: India has topped Britain and China to become Australia's leading source of migrants for the first time, data revealed Friday, with seven of the top 10 source countries now in Asia.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said India accounted for 29,000 of the 185,000 places in Australia's 2011-12 permanent migration programme - some 15.7% of the total and the first time the country has come top.
China was a close second with 25,500 (13.8%), followed by 25,275 from Britain (13.7%), according to the 2011-12 Migration Programme report.
Bowen said seven of the top 10 countries for Australia-bound migrants were now in Asia - the others being the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam - with South Africa and Ireland rounding out the top count.
Skilled migration accounted for the majority of the programme's places, with accountants the top profession followed by cooks, software and applications programmers, software engineers and developers.
"Skilled migration is essential to support our economy and help overcome the challenges of an ageing population," said Bowen.
"Over 60% of skilled migration visas go to employer, government and regional sponsored places to help fill critical skills needs."
The report confirms census data released last month showing that Indian-born people were the fastest growing group in Australia, now accounting for 5.6% of the population, preceded only by China (6%) and New Zealand (9%).
The rise comes despite damage to Australia's reputation from a spate of violence against Indians in southern Melbourne, including a 2010 stabbing murder which stoked diplomatic tensions and saw a sharp drop in student numbers.
Indian enrolments are still in decline, with 40,709 students in the year to May, a 24.3% slump from a year earlier, which is almost triple the average fall being seen in the sector due to the strong Australian dollar.
Analysts said the strong migration figures likely reflected a large number of Indians who had studied in Australia qualifying for sponsored employment and family visas being granted to their relatives.
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