Media Release – Australia’s economic edge: the Asian business diasporas

Australia’s human bridges to Asia are critical national infrastructure, according to a new report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).

(access report here)

With Asian nations rising as the super-economies of the century ahead, the report, Australia’s Diaspora Advantage: Realising the potential for building transnational business networks with Asia, charts the path to stronger engagement for higher returns.

Today around 4 million people, or about one in six of the population living and working in Australia, identify as being of Asian origin. Australia’s Chinese and Indian diasporas, the focus of the report, now include some 1.2 million and 610,000 people respectively.

By 2030 these two economies will be the first and third largest in the world. India was the world’s fastest growing economy in 2015; and together China and India have almost tripled their share of the global economy over the past 20 years.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel helped launch the report in Canberra today, with the keynote presentation from Professor John Fitzgerald FAHA, ACOLA Council.

“Asian communities are driving enterprise and innovation in Australia; using their language skills, cultural knowledge and global networks to connect us to the engines of the modern world,” Prof Fitzgerald said.

“It is time for us to capture this diversity, dynamism and mobility, and work together to harness our diaspora advantage.”

At the last Census, Australia’s Chinese and Indian diasporas owned over 45,000 businesses. In just five years, the number of Chinese-born business owners grew by 40 per cent; and Indian-born business owners by 72 per cent.

Recent surveys also show, however, that whilst 9.4 per cent of Australian workers are Asian-born, only 4.9 per cent advance into senior management roles.

Professor Fazal Rizvi, Co-Chair of the project’s Expert Working Group, said for Australia to realize its diaspora advantage, it needs to develop a comprehensive, bi-partisan national approach that builds on successes to date, and the entrepreneurial energies that Asian Australian business communities clearly have.

“We suggest involving the Asian business communities in economic and trade policy development, and connecting business diasporas with research collaborations for innovation and commercialising ideas. The potential role of the Asian business diasporas in Australia’s innovation agenda cannot be stressed enough” he said.

“Australia has an opportunity to take a leading international role in understanding how much diasporas contribute to global growth, and helping our local business diasporas use their knowledge, skills and networks to forge critical transnational commercial links.”

The report is available on

For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Rizvi contact Penny Underwood, MediaWise on (03) 9818 8540 or

Social media: #ACOLAdiasporas @ACOLA_Aus


ACOLA is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that supports evidence-based interdisciplinary research. ACOLA combines the strengths of the four Australian Learned Academies: Australian Academy of Science, Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, Australian Academy of the Humanities and Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.


Professor Fazal Rizvi FASSA (Co-Chair)
Professor Kam Louie FAHA FHKAH (Co-Chair)
Dr Marlene Kanga AM FTSE
Mr Kevin Hobgood-Brown
Professor Aibing Yu FTSE FAA