International migration is a controversial topic of discussion these days, but as an immigrant myself, I am aware that there are plenty of examples where the move is a positive one for both the individual and the country. However individual governments will always have a direct impact on how effective immigration is and whether perceived positively or negatively by its population. The picture above is a personal one from over 40 years ago, of myself with my mum and great-grandfather, near the start of my own journey from Brazil…
The Economist has written an interesting piece on the topic of migration entitled ‘Governments need better ways to manage migration‘ (content can be accessed but requires subscription).
Aside from those people who would prefer their societies to remain homogenous, as they would always favour migration to be kept to a minimum, most others would accept migration and see it as a positive if the risk of disruption could be better managed.
There are some very distinct approaches to migration as The Economist article suggests, whether in the UAE, Sweden or the USA. Interestingly also is the % of the population that are made up by migrants (as per table above) with the UK and Spain at a similar level at around 13% whilst Australia and Canada having a much higher share above 21%.
For a previous Inside the Cask blog on my personal journey, click on this link for ‘An adopted immigrant in Scotland‘
The Economist article suggests that no country has a perfect system but four policies could help to maximise the benefits of immigration, minimise its cost and boost public support for it.
1) The Influx of Migrants should be legal, orderly and humanely handled
This is because disorder fuels anti-immigrant sentiment and the opposite is also true as can be seen in Canada and Australia, which have a high immigrant population and yet public opinion is generally pro-migrant as they feel the government is in control of its borders.
The next three suggested policies by The Economist are all about integration.
2) Migrants should be encouraged to work
This can vary greatly and as an example, the unemployment rate for immigrants in Sweden is 16% (better benefits and stronger unions restrict unskilled workers) whilst 4% in the USA (flexible labour market and meagre welfare state). There has to be a balance it seems between support by the state and the development of skills and push for migrants to work. Clearly no government or country will be able to support a high amount of migrants unless they can work and contribute to society.
Below is a happy picture from 2014 when I receive my MBA after years of study and effort whilst working full-time, in order to develop my own skill set.
3) Migrants should be helped to fit in
4) Migrants should be seen to pay their way
From personal experience, language can be one of the main barriers or enablers to fitting in to the local society. This seems obvious but it is not always taken onboard by all immigrants. Fortunately for myself, I started learning english as a second language in Brazil, and yet nothing prepared me for the Scottish accent….or for the fact that my sister (pictured below near Stirling Castle) had the Scottish accent growing up in Dundee!
Cultural assimilation can be a challenge, but as the article suggests, in America for example this is surprisingly quick with 60% of foreign-born Latinos speaking mostly Spanish and by the next generation this figure is down to 6%. After a few generations, most migrants and their families will also stop using ethnic labels (such as ‘hispanic’) and just identify themselves as American for example.
Some of this assimilation will also involve the acceptance of the local customs, culture and beliefs – of course, this also involves bringing some of your own background to the overall mix and creating a more diverse and interesting society as a whole. However, personally I have never understood why some immigrants feel that a local celebration for example can be offensive to them, if that is the case, and you feel strongly enough, then I think it is time to migrate again….
I am an adopted immigrant of Scotland and have been living in the UK for over 27 years. My family history is one of immigration from my father’s move from Portugal to Brazil at a young age to my own move from Brazil back to Europe and the decision to stay in Scotland. My family have the Portuguese surname (de Almeida) and Brazilian influence but are very much Scottish.
Coincidentally, I now work for a company in the Scotch whisky industry (Loch Lomond Group) based 5 minutes from where my wife was born in the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria, Scotland.
My wife’s family background is very much British/ Irish with relatives in Dumbarton, Helensburgh, etc in Scotland and also family in Ireland. Her relatives include her grand-father, Willie Gallagher who was a Scottish international marathon and cross country runner, and also his younger brother, her great uncle, the boxer Richard “Skeets” Gallagher from Renton, just over 2 miles away – for information on the ‘uncrowned flyweight champion of the world’ – click here.