catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The circulation of the elites?

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There was a strange little column in Saturday’s SMH by Michael Duffy, the former anarchist, seemingly concerned about the lack of public enquiry into the changing face of Australia’s professional elite insofar as being an IT guy or an accountant makes one a member of the ‘elite’ (or are these professions really more the mainstream equivalent of what working class professions used to be? let’s face it – they’re not necessarily glamorous or lucrative occupations nowadays, just average salaried positions):

An article in People and Place by Siew-ean Khoo and Bob Birrell looked at how many males aged 25 to 34 in 1996 had tertiary qualifications. For those with parents born in Australia it was 17.7 per cent, for China 48.8 per cent, and for India 31.3 per cent.
At university, many courses have well over 7 per cent Asian students. For example, one informed academic told me four years ago that about 50 per cent of entry level dentistry students and a quarter of medical students were from Asian backgrounds. The general pattern is that the numbers are highest in numerate subjects such as IT and accounting, and lower in courses such as law. Whatever the figures might be at the moment, they will increase, as more than 50 per cent of immigrants have come from Asia for many years now.

Many university students are full-fee foreign students, of whom there are more than 200,000. Between 30 and 40 per cent get visas on graduation. The Government has hardly increased the number of domestic university places since 1996, so these graduates are literally taking jobs that would once have gone to Australian citizens.

As he notes, many of these students are full fee foreign students. Some stay but the vast majority go back to their countries of origin. And Australia had made a conscious policy decision to make education an export industry and to allow foreign students to buy their way in more easily than local students. So what’s the fuss about? Why does the former anarchist think that there is some urgent need for ‘public deliberations’ over the ethnic composition of mainstream middle class occupations?

Does it matter if, say by 2030, people of Asian background make up 10 per cent of the general population but several times that of those in elite jobs? Opinions would vary if people were asked, but they’re not. The nation is making this big change without any public discussion.

In my viiew it doesn’t. Isn’t that what an optimal immigration policy should be about anyway? Harvesting human capital from the rest of the world?
Is Duffy channeling a certain discredited law professor? Of course the reason for the overrepresentation in university participation among certain ethnic groups is rather simple. Self-selection by migrants, typical middle class noveau riche ambitions among migrants for their children. Nothing magical or conspiratorial there. Give it a few generations.

Written by Admin

November 15, 2005 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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