“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”

–Thomas Malthus

It seems that foreigners can never win. When national statistics reveal that the foreigner’s unemployment rate is lower than the local’s, nationalistic and racist sentiments are stirred. Conversely, if the rate of unemployment are shown to be higher than the local’s, foreigners are perceived to be leeching on the society, and the government is heralded as incompetent. It seems like a necessary lose-lose situation for the foreigner, and even more so in a welfare-oriented economies which most Europeans states are characterized.

Is it in the human being’s DNA to fear the unknown? Perhaps. With globalization, change is the new constant– locals are constantly becoming foreigners elsewhere in the world, and foreigners are travelling inland to look for new opportunities. There is arbitrage. There is xenophobia. There is brain drain, and there is talent inflow.

Yet, we all know that it is diversity that leads to innovation. Where should we draw the line between immigration and multiculturalism then?

I think the bigger and more pertinent question is “How can we ensure that migrants are welcome by the indigenous, instead of being seen as a threat?” Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Go for net-migration. This strategy has been proposed for UK. Migration is bad when it puts a strain on the infrastructure, and this alone should be a concern for the government to re-evaluate its policies. Think about it– whoever says that the government should place economic growth as the top priority? The government has an equal obligation to ensure the cohesiveness of migrants vis-à-vis national identity too. Net-migration implies that the numbers which comes into the countries equates the numbers which goes out, especially in skilled and specialized sectors.
  • Insist on a national propaganda to embrace multi-culturalism. This has always been Singapore’s approach–to promote Singapore’s unique selling point as one that is multi-cultural, so as to make it easier for migration to occur. If multi-culturalism can somehow be sold as a stream of national income for growth, then it would be easier to import more talents in, at the expense of the widening income gap.
  • Make sure that immigrants and locals stay close to each other. Avoid certain racial or cultural enclaves. Hold interracial dialogues, be open to cultural thoughts.
  • Encourage migrants to learn the language. Language is the key to the heart of locals.

In short, the “right balance” is really all about acceptance. Is there too much dissent in the society? If importing talents is essential for economic growth, then attention should also be focused to integrate them. Are we looking down on people who are refugees? If we are, then more effort should be made to make locals understand their plight, even in times of recession.

Let me end this short post with a quote by Eve Tushnet: “Realism” only works for people whose worldviews are already accepted as realistic. The rest of us must make do with genre.