Since World War II, the government has promoted immigration of the maximum number of persons Australia can absorb without economic disequilibrium. In 1979, however, with the unemployment rate rising, the government tightened immigration requirements so that Australians would not lose jobs to the newcomers. Under the new system, assessments of applications are based on such factors as age, skills, and family ties, with priority given to reunion of families sponsored by Australian residents. In 2001 The Migration Program allowed 80,610 entry visas, most granted under the family and skill based categories.
Most of the 4.2 million immigrants to Australia between 1945 and 1985 were of working age, but although the government encouraged rural settlement, many immigrants had skills in short supply and preferred to work in the cities. The main countries of origin of such workers were the United Kingdom, Italy, and Greece. The number of permanent settlers arriving in 1991 was 116,650, up from a postwar low of 52,748 in 1975–76. The record high for new settlers was 185,099, in 1969–70. From World War II to 1991, over 460,000 refugees settled in Australia. These included more than 130,000 Indochinese.
As of 2002, Australia had 57,800 refugees and 13,015 asylum-seekers, primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq, China and Indonesia. The majority of illegal immigrants are those who entered the country legally but remained beyond the expiration of their visas. The government is undertaking more stringent measures to identify and remove illegal aliens. Australia has also set up programs to assist the integration of migrants and refugees by providing services and education. As of 2000 the net migration rate was 5.1 per thousand. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.