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Australia likely to cut immigration

  Australia will likely cut the number of skilled immigrants allowed into the country next year, following the global economic downturn, the government said on Monday.

“I expect the numbers of our program to drop next year as a reaction to the economic circumstances,” Immigration Minister Chris Evans told reporters. He gave no indication of the size of the cut, but said the government would also reconsider which occupations should be on the critical skills list. “We will probably have a formal look at that in the next couple of weeks,” Evans said.

Around 190,300 migrants were projected to arrive over 2008/09, with skilled workers accounting for most places in a program designed when the forecast was for rapid economic growth and a skills crisis. But projections for growth have been slashed as the global economy slows, and some industries have already started cutting jobs.

Asian immigration has grown rapidly in recent years while the number of new arrivals from traditional source countries such as Britain and Italy has fallen, the latest census showed last month.

“Country-of-birth groups which increased the most between 1996 and 2006 were New Zealand (by around 98,000 people), China (96,000) and India (70,000),” according to the census. “In contrast, European country-of-birth groups declined sharply over the same period -- Italy by 39,000 people, the United Kingdom by 35,000 and Greece by 17,000.”

However, while the ratio of Asian immigration to European arrivals changed -- with six of the 10 most common birthplaces of migrants being Asian countries -- 92,000 Britons still accounted for most new residents.

Apart from China and India, countries providing increasing numbers of immigrants included Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and South Africa. (The Economic Times)