Whether they are arriving in Europe from across the Mediterranean, crossing the US-Mexican border, fleeing the conflict in Syria, or legally buying passports of various countries, migrants, who for whatever reason are looking to settle in the developed world, are never far from the headlines.
The increasing levels of migration worldwide has made regions noticeably more diverse, and as a result immigration has become one of the major policy issues of the 21st century.
Though the divisions between those for and against immigration have never been starker, evidence suggests that cultural diversity has a strong correlation with entrepreneurship, and that immigration is beneficial for a country’s development.
A study by the London School of Economics suggests that immigration and diversity is a directly linked to a nation’s success in entrepreneurship and economic development. Referring to Britain’s recent hard anti-immigrant turn, the report warns of negative consequences for the UK: “Recent legislation by the UK Home Office to restrict migration is likely to lead to a serious dent in entrepreneurship, affecting in turn the potential for employment generation and economic growth.”
The world’s developed nations are divided into those that are willing to attract and welcome immigrants and those that are not. Industrial societies like Japan and several European countries that are less than welcoming to newcomers and have resisted any changes brought about by these immigrants, have arguably been facing up to demographic and economic stagnation or decline.
Canada’s multicultural policies arguably put it in a favorable position in terms of social and economic development. Canada even has a minister for multiculturalism, which is unthinkable in most other countries.
“Multiculturalism isn’t just about statistics, it is about attitude. It is about seeing diversity as strength,” says Henry Kim, director of Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. “Canadians believe that blending makes you better and stronger.”
This attitude to multiculturalism was evident in the recent social experiment in Hamilton, Ontario, where, in a staged incident, bystanders repeatedly defended an actor dressed in traditional Muslim attire from the racist abuse of another actor. The experiment had to be stopped when the actor hurling abuse was punched by a local Canadian who took offence at his intolerant attitude.
One reason societies reject multiculturalism in favor of integration is the fear that immigrant communities will fail to learn the local language and culture and instead form their own immigrant ghettos. But research shows that immigrant children actually learn the language more quickly and are more successful at school if they are raised in a society that recognizes the importance of their native language. This may be a psychological effect, as a society that openly values other cultures makes immigrants feel more accepted and gives them a sense of belonging.
And as other countries struggle with their immigration policies, Canada’s multicultural policies puts it on sound footing.