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The Sikh population in Australia has grown by 75 per cent in five years

There’s a surge in student migration rather than skilled migration from Punjab with Victoria emerging as destination of choice

world Updated: Jul 01, 2017 09:18 IST
Manpreet K Singh
With 1.26 lakh followers – up from 72,000 five years ago – Sikhism is now the fifth largest religion of Australia, after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
With 1.26 lakh followers – up from 72,000 five years ago – Sikhism is now the fifth largest religion of Australia, after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.(Photo: Twitter)

It’s official. The population of Sikhs in Australia has grown by 75% in five years, according to the census 2016 data released by the Australian government over this week.

With 1.26 lakh followers – up from 72,000 five years ago – Sikhism is now the fifth largest religion of the country, after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

In the 2006 census, Sikhism was not even among 20 religions recorded in Australia. As compared to the 2006 census that had recorded just about 26,000 Sikhs, there has been a five-fold rise in the community’s numbers Down Under in a decade.

CENSUS 2016
  • Sikhism is fifth largest religion Down Under with five-fold rise in the community’s numbers in decade

WHY DOWN UNDER

The migration of Sikhs to Australia dates back to 150 years, but the past decade has seen a massive surge of student migration rather than skilled migration, from Punjab.

The rush Down Under on student visa is seen as passport to permanent residency. Lack of employment opportunities in India and the lure of better lifestyle are the driving factors.

Though the latest census shows the Sikhs forming 0.5% of Australia’s 2.4 crore population, a sizeable number of them may still not be permanent citizens of this country.

The last census of 2011 shows that the largest component of Sikhs was living on rent because they didn’t own a home and a majority represented the newly arrived student community.

Australian immigration law has toughened up considerably since 2009. Skill lists, visa rules, and permanent residency requirements have changed rapidly. Despite that, the huge influx of new Sikh and Punjabi-speaking arrivals has continued in a steep upward trajectory in the last five years, with Victoria emerging as the destination of choice for them.

Victoria, with Melbourne as its capital, is home to 52,762 Sikhs, followed by New South Wales ( 31,737), Queensland (17,433), Western Australia (11,897), South Australia (8,808) and Canberra (2,142). Northern Territory and Tasmania have a smaller population of under 700 Sikhs each.

HINDUS GROW TOO

Hinduism, another religion with its roots in India, has grown three-fold since the 2006 census which recorded 1.48 lakh Hindus in Australia.

The latest census data has recorded 4.4 lakh Hindus – a little less than 2% of the country’s population. Hindus are more densely populated in New South Wales with Sydney as its capital.