The El Salvador-born Community

Historical Background

The first group of 75 Salvadorans arrived in Australia in 1983 under the Special Humanitarian Program, during El Salvador's civil war. This was at the request of the Government of El Salvador to the Australian Government to resettle former political prisoners who had been granted amnesty and were allowed to leave the country.

Between 1983 and 1986 Australia accepted a further 10 000 Salvadorans under the Special Humanitarian Program. While the first few groups came directly from El Salvador, subsequent arrivals consisted of refugees who had been living for a considerable time in third countries such as Mexico or Costa Rica.

Since the end of the civil war in 1992, there has been little migration from El Salvador to Australia.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 9651 El Salvador-born people in Australia, an increase of 2.7 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed Victoria had the largest number with 3140 followed by Queensland (2307), New South Wales (1873) and Western Australia (1204).

Age and Sex

The median age of the El Salvador-born in 2011 was 42 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population. The age distribution showed 1.2 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 8.1 per cent were 15-24 years, 45.9 per cent were 25-44 years, 36.4 per cent were 45-64 years and 8.4 per cent were 65 years and over. Of the El Salvador-born in Australia, there were 4629 males (48 per cent) and 5023 females (52 per cent). The sex ratio was 92.2 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that El Salvador-born people reported were Salvadoran (4851), Spanish (2828) and Peoples of the Americas, nfd (854). In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 7484 responses were towards Salvadoran ancestry.

*At the 2011 Census up to two responses per person were allowed for the Ancestry question; therefore providing the total responses and not persons count.


The main languages spoken at home by El Salvador-born people in Australia were Spanish (8715), English (821) and Italian (21). Of the 8834 El Salvador-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 82.3 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 16.4 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst El Salvador-born were Catholic (5625), Christian, nfd (929) and Pentecostal (577).

Of the El Salvador-born, 8.4 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 2.4 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 92.6 per cent of the El Salvador-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total El Salvador-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 2 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 2.8 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the El Salvador-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $604, compared with $538 for all overseas-born and $597 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $577.


At the 2011 Census, 61.4 per cent of the El Salvador-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 55.9 per cent of the Australian population.

Of the El Salvador born aged 15 years and over, 4.8 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among El Salvador-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 71.3 per cent and the unemployment rate was 7 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 6238 El Salvador-born who were employed, 37.4 per cent were employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population was 48.4 per cent.

Produced by the Community Relations Section of DIAC All data used in this summary is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. Sources for the Historical Background are available on our website.
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