Friday, September 5, 2014


Immigration is big news in the United States, but also in other "western" countries.  There are those of us who "belong" and there are those "others."  Some of the lesser noticed news is that immigration is decreasing in some quarters, but not enough to quell all of the very heated complaints.

The most obvious concern for many is a threat to their job and as jobs are being automated and outsourced there is a race for what is left.  Wages and perks are declining.  Unfortunately (or it could be fortunately) society is becoming so efficient at making things that the job situation is very likely to decline everywhere.  Immigrants aren't responsible so much as reacting to the fact that economic opportunities are shifting.  Inside Canada and other countries the unemployed are being told to move to where the jobs are.  Immigrants from foreign countries are in fact doing just that.

The positive side is that immigrants increase demands for all sorts of products and services that in turn offer opportunities for domestic jobs.  The job market started to boom when the "boomers" began demanding products and services and much of that demand has declined as the boomers age..  Immigrants also provide services that will be greatly needed as our population ages.  Some of them provide skills we lack and others provide investment capital that can be put to good use and others are willing to do "dirty" work that the rest of us shun.  At bottom we are most fearful that most immigrants are willing to work harder for less.

In some areas there will be competition for immigrants.  Some skills (or willingness to do dirty work) will be in short supply.  How can we make it more attractive for immigrants?  Money will be a major factor, but many immigrants are very concerned about their close relatives, education and cultural opportunities, community acceptance, legal protections. etc. 

Aside from jobs there is the whole idea that "they" are different and are replacing our culture that we hold dearly.  Most immigrants do want to fit in and sooner or later they mostly do.  Hockey is still the big deal for Canadians while Americans still get excited about football and baseball.  We still have our Hollywood movies and Thanksgiving turkey.  Many of us love our cottages and many of the rest of us (including many immigrants) envy them.  Most immigrants want to fit in and do adapt, but thank goodness they don't forget everything they learned back home.

Numbers and enthusiasm do make a difference and a  lot of us established nationals have come to appreciate it.  Going back before Europeans took over North America the real Native North Americans had a lot of quaint customs that we borrowed--maple syrup, snowshoes, canoes, corn on the cob and a philosophy that some of us revere such as conservation and respect for nature.  They have adapted somewhat to our notions of property, work for pay, bureaucracy, language, etc.

It is good that many immigrants take pride in many of their customs as some of us have found they add to our enjoyment of life.  Food is one example as more North Americans eat a variety of ethnic foods such as pizza, Pad Thai, quinoa, samosas, burritos, etc.  Music has been packaged in many different formats with immigrant contributions from all corners of the Globe.  Soccer and basketball owe much to immigrants as do other sports.  Cricket is providing enjoyment opportunities for native born as well as immigrants. This is only a small sampling of the countless contributions immigrants have added to our culture.

Us natives have a certain way of looking at things, but are now wanting to deal with the rest of the world and we don't always understand the global marketplace.  Immigrants bring a variety of perspectives that can not only shed light on our global opportunities, but also contribute to bettering our lives.

How many can we take in without hurting our economy?  There is a limit, but perhaps we should focus on how many we need to keep our economy going.  We need to have people buy products and services that might otherwise result in red ink.  We need people to carry on functions that are necessary, but  difficult to get natives to do.

How much can we absorb  without changing more than we want?  I think that will change with time as "we" won't be the same "we" we are today.  I believe what will be retained is more than just what the majority values and that will include a variety of options.  Not everyone will be as excited about hockey, but a few might be excited about soccer.  Everyone will be able to find music and art that they love. There is more to life than what you were born into and discovering some of the new things will be to your benefit.

Every change requires adjustments.  Immigration does for all parties, but all parties stand to benefit.  It is only a problem in some minds, it should be an opportunity for all.

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