Brain Drain or Brawn Drain?

East to West Skilled Migration in Australia
PublishedJuly 2013
PublisherCurtin University
Number of Pages30

Studies on the determinants of migration provide evidence that distance has a strong negative effect. That is, the farther the region is, the lower the probability that people would like to migrate to. However, Western Australia, whose capital city is known as the most isolated city, attracted lots of skilled labour from overseas or other states in Australia in the past decades. As we can read from the 2011 census data, Western Australia is the fastest growing state in Australia, increasing by 14.3 percent between 2006 and 2011. This is significantly above the national growth rate of 8.3 percent. ABS 2011 census data shows that most WA LGAs have a high growth rate and high turnover in population from 2006 to 2011. According to the income elasticity of distance for interstate migration estimated in early studies2, to attract a skilled worker from Sydney to Perth rather than Brisbane, the employee has to pay about 1.5 times more as Perth is three times further from Sydney than from Sydney to Brisbane, while as shown in ABS (2012), the average weekly wage in mineral and mining industry is $2,493 in Western Australia and $2,135 in Queensland. It seems that interstate migration pattern in Australia is different from other countries and Western Australia managed to compete in the labour market. Using ABS census data, this paper illustrates the east to west migration flow in Australia and analyses the characteristics of this big flow.