People lining up outside Taiwan Cafe, Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Taiwanese-Australians are the second largest Chinese migrant group in Australia. Most of them arrived during the 1980s as highly educated professionals who were relatively well-off overseas. The vast majority arrived under business visas.

Researcher David Ip describes them as the “new middle class” who had benefited from Taiwan’s economic growth. Ip’s research shows that once they arrived in Australia, however, many experienced a decrease in social mobility (the ability to move up in socio-economic class). While many owned businesses overseas, they experienced trouble navigating Australia’s legal and business systems due to language barriers. They suffered unemployment and underemployment rates at twice the rate of the national average. They were able to live off their overseas capital and they had higher rates of home ownership compared to other migrants. This alleviates some pressures.

Yet research shows that Taiwanese-Australians have been disappointed at the lack of opportunities in Australia. They’ve adapted by splitting their business and family activities between Australia and Taiwan.

2/2 #Sociology of Taiwanese-Australians. Many Taiwanese families have settled into a pattern of being “astronaut workers” who divide their time living here and in Taiwan. They return overseas to tend to their businesses while leaving their families in Australia for months at a time. Other Chinese groups have also used this strategy, but it is not ideal as families spend too much time apart. A better strategy that benefits these families and our society is to create better business and social support for Taiwanese-Australians within Australia. This grows Australia’s economy by making stronger use of their unique business skills, as well as growing our multicultural cohesion.