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A Very Different Australia: What Businesses Need To Know about the Growing Chinese Population

Only a decade and a half ago, you could fit all the Chinese into Parramatta comfortably

The Chinese audience in Australia has seen massive growth over the past decade. However, how did it all start?  In 2001, only a mere 142,780 Chinese-born citizens had been recorded to live in Australia.


  • To put this into perspective; Parramatta, as one of the more well-known areas in Sydney, had a population of 148,323 in 2006.
  • Essentially, all Chinese-born citizens across Australia could be comfortably placed within the Parramatta region at the start of the 2000s.


However this would all change, in just over 15 years, that figure of Chinese-born citizens had risen to 509,555, an increase of over 250%.


Exponential growth because of Chinese students?

In 2016, almost 50,000 Chinese students began their studies across Australia, up by 23% the year prior.  According to Jane Toh from the ACT Carers Advisors Association, many of these students will make the decision to stay and eventually bring families into Australia to live with them through family reunion visas.


From this, a trend begins to form:


  1. The number of new Chinese students that arrive in Australia increase every passing year. Let’s call this Group A.
  2. Due to the increase, a greater number of students will decide to stay and in turn, leads to more families transferring their residence to Australia. Let’s call this Group B.
  3. Eventually Group A or B may want to have children, which adds to the growth.
  4. The result of this is a constantly expanding population of Chinese, which can be summed up as: Student – > Family – > New Generation


While this expanding web can be applied to all nationalities, it is only because of the increasing rates at which Chinese students are coming to study that such exponential results are being seen. At the current rate, business will benefit from taking action on international students now if any, given that a significant percentage of these students will be part of China’s ‘feurdai’ generation — a generation of young teenagers with access to their parents’ wealth.


Brands will benefit from focusing more on Mandarin over Cantonese

Among the abundance of Chinese also comes a shift in the linguistic demographic. Jane Toh explains that a growing majority of Chinese students are Mandarin speakers from southern China (Beijing and Shanghai) over Cantonese speakers from the northern regions.


  • Canberra residents speaking Mandarin at home grew 85 per cent in five years, up from only 1.9 per cent of the ACT population in 2011 – or 6676 people – to 3.1 per cent, or 12,408 on census night last August.


With the growing majority of Mandarin speakers, brands will do good to develop new strategies that will help access a wider pool of Chinese buyers.



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