Australian migrants among the happiest in the world

 Malcolm Turnbull likes to say Australia is the world's most successful multicultural country and he might be right.

Malcolm Turnbull likes to say Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural country and he might be right.

Photo: Andrew Meares

People are on the move like never before. The number living outside their country of birth surged by about 90 million to 244 million between 1990 and 2015, United Nations data shows.

One international poll published last year found 14 per cent of the world’s adults – about 700 million people – would like to move to another country if they had the chance.

With numbers like that it’s no wonder migration is one of the great challenges of our age.

But the non-stop political fireworks over border control, refugee policy and population growth overshadows some important human dimensions of the migration story.

The annual World Happiness Report, released this month, looks in depth at how the happiness of societies is affected by immigration.

It is especially relevant for Australia because our share of migrants is high compared with most countries. About half the population was either born overseas, or has one or both parents born overseas.

It turns out most of the world’s happiest countries have a high proportion of migrants.

The top 10 nations on the global happiness league table have a foreign-born population share of 17.2 per cent, about twice the global average.

Australia is part of that elite list – we were ranked the 10th happiest nation out of 156 in the study. Finland was first, followed by Norway and Denmark.

The Global Happiness Report draws on the massive Gallup World Poll to measure aggregate happiness among migrant and locally born populations.

There are three groups directly affected by migration – migrants themselves, the people they leave behind, and the host societies where migrants relocate.

As you’d expect migrants across the globe become happier after switching countries. Their reported quality of life jumps by an average of 9 per cent following migration.

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