Tony Le Nevez is Managing Partner at Henley & Partners Australia.
Australia has regained the top spot in New World Wealth’s 2023 list of destinations forecast to enjoy the highest net inflows of high-net-worth individuals globally, replacing the UAE, which secured the honor for the first time last year. Prior to the Covid blip in 2020 and 2021 when the pandemic hampered both the movement and the tracking of millionaires, Australia wore the crown from 2015 to 2019. The USA saw the biggest net inflows globally in both 2013 and 2014.
What is it about Australia that has it consistently mentioned as the millionaires’ migration destination of choice? Is it the climate and lifestyle, the world-class education and healthcare, the distance from global crisis hotspots, or is it the fact that, unlike the UK and the USA, Australia has no inheritance taxes or death duties? The answer is, all of the above, plus some very attractive visa programs aimed at attracting highly skilled professionals.
Australia has a long history of large-scale migration dating back to the 1950s. In those days, it was semi-skilled workers from central and eastern Europe who made the long trip to the southern hemisphere. More recently, large numbers of highly skilled professionals, many of whom meet the high-net-worth individual definition of having investable wealth in excess of USD 1 million, have decided to call Australia home. In the four years prior to the pandemic, Australia was regularly attracting more than 10,000 millionaires each year. The country’s border was effectively closed for two years in 2020 and 2021, and in that time Australia experienced a net outflow of people for the first time in its history. Arrivals, including permanent arrivals, started rebounding in 2022 and the trend has continued into 2023.
In May 2022, Australia had a change of government and almost immediately the incoming government announced an increase to the permanent migration program and a review of the immigration system. Like many developed countries, Australia faces a severe skills shortage and an aging population. The review recommended major changes to the way Australia manages its visa programs, but importantly it restated the long-held view that the migration of highly skilled people can help increase Australians’ standard of living by contributing to higher productivity levels in the economy.
Australia is forecast to see the highest net inflow of millionaires globally in 2023, with 5,200 more high-net-worth individuals expected to relocate to Australia than those who will leave. Some will enter through the traditional investment migration route, but a significant number will receive their Australian residence under the government’s Global Talent Independent Program.
Launched as a pilot program in 2019, the Global Talent Independent Program was designed to help grow Australia’s innovation and tech economies by providing a streamlined pathway to permanent residence for highly skilled executives, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and professionals. The future-focused industry sectors targeted under the program include agri-food and agtech, digitech and fintech, education, health services, and renewable energy.
In addition to the reasons already mentioned, globally mobile individuals applying under the Global Talent Independent Program are attracted by Australia’s reputation for personal safety and political stability, and its proximity to Asia makes Australia a good base for doing business in China, Japan, and the growing economies of Southeast Asia.
The Australian department of Home Affairs says more than 25,000 Global Talent Independent visas have been issued since 2019, and a further 5,000 places have been set aside for the Global Talent Independent program for the 2023/24 financial year.
So why is Australia such a popular destination among the growing number of globally mobile high-net-worth individuals? The answer lies in the country having a combination of traditional pull factors such as a highly desirable lifestyle, good climate, and excellent healthcare and education systems, and more contemporary factors such as a robust and dynamic economy, high levels of personal safety and security, and relative remoteness from current global geopolitical hotspots. Being part of the Asia Pacific region also means Australia is aligned with the world’s fastest growing economies.
Finally, there has been an acknowledgement by successive governments that Australia is in a global competition for talent, and that the migration of highly skilled professionals and entrepreneurs adds significant societal value. Visa programs such as the Global Talent Independent program, are proving to be very effective in luring the world’s best and brightest to the land down under.