A New Era in Australian Multiculturalism? From Working-Class “Ethnics” To a “Multicultural Middle-Class”



This article analyses the changing socio-economic profile of the “multicultural” section of the Australian population, in the past officially referred to as people of “non-English-speaking background” (NESB). After importing low-skilled NESB labor to service the manufacturing boom of the post-war decades, at the end of the 1970s, following economic restructuring, the Australian immigration program was refocused on skilled intake which resulted in immigrants increasingly becoming a middle-class demographic. Over the past three decades, a “multicultural middle class” (MMC) has been created from two sources: the intake of highly skilled NESB immigrants and upwardly mobile second and third migrant generations. The article documents this demographic change using census and immigration data, and discusses what it may mean for the future of Australian multiculturalism, which, according to many analysts, is in crisis and requires re-articulation.