One of the problems Japan is facing in the twenty first century is its aging society. Japan’s population is aging much faster than Western Europe’s or America’s. The child population has dropped dramatically; the average age of mothers who are having their first baby has dropped from just over 25 in 1970 to over 30 in 2013; nearly a quarter of the Japanese population is over 65 years of age. This creates a number of serious and very obvious problems. For example, how do you look after the aging population? Who will do the work to keep society running?
Of course, a dramatic decrease in the number and proportion of young people is not good and at least one solution is also rather obvious: bring in people from other countries. Governments around the world often respond by allowing more immigration.
In 2013, the population of the United Kingdom was about 13% foreign-born — up from about 7% in 1993. The British magazine The Economist claims that British immigration is a huge success story; immigrants tend to be well-educated and make a big contribution to society. The children of immigrants tend to do very well even when their parents are very poor and badly educated.
The United Kingdom is, therefore, a multicultural society; its official language, English, is the global language. You could argue that Britain’s identity is changing too fast, but Britain has a long history of immigration that includes just about the whole population if you look back far enough! Immigrants work hard, learn the language, and make a massive contribution in every facet of life. Britain has absorbed more than three million immigrants since the year 2000. It has, in many ways, been a fantastic success. What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, it seems. The basic problem is that, although it usually works out well for everyone in the long-term, immigration is often very unpopular with ordinary people.
People are afraid of change and often try hard to resist it. Even though people can see the evidence every day that multicultural societies are wonderful, they still worry that foreigners are taking their jobs and changing the identity of the country they are living in. In other words, they feel like foreigners are actually taking their country away from them, even if they are making the country better at the same time. The right-wing British newspaper The Telegraph says that too many people vote for far-right politicians who make laws that punish immigrants and end up harming the economy. So immigrants are often punished and abused even though the government needs immigrants and cannot do anything to reduce immigration. This makes everyone unhappy and frustrated.
I feel qualified to write about this, partly because I grew up in the areas that experienced Britain’s first race riots. These occurred just after the end of the first World War when black communities developed in the South Wales docklands. These immigrants were people who had fought for Britain during the war. In the hot summer of 1919, black and white people came into conflict in these poor industrial areas. The blacks were angry because they had made sacrifices for Britain and felt that they were getting no reward. The whites were angry for the same reasons and wanted to take out their frustrations on the black community. There were fights with knives and razors and houses were burned down. It wasn’t a good start for multicultural Britain.
People often focus on negative news. For example, in 2014 Islamic terrorist groups were discovered living in the very areas where I grew up. This does shock people, understandably. However, whether it’s tourists or long-term immigrants who are visiting your country, the chances are that they are probably making a positive contribution to your economy and have nothing but positive intentions. The reality is that British people could not now even imagine living in a country without corner shops run by Asians, the incredible Indian food, the astonishing sporting success delivered by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Last year, Yasmin’s — in the countryside of West Wales — was voted the best Indian restaurant in the country. The head chef owner of the restaurant, Shaish Alam, claims that he is not even interested in making a profit. He simply wants to enjoy life in the beautiful surroundings and make the most of local produce. When we think about intercultural communication, perhaps we should assume the best; people generally just want to enjoy themselves and make a positive contribution in some way or another. Perhaps local identity is changed in some subtle way, but nothing is really lost and the gains may be very great.
Anyway, check out the PowerPoint slides here.
Featured image: England cricketer Monty Panesar, whose parents immigrated from India in 1979. By Stephen Parnell (talk).Stephen Parnell at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Better than billed. The Economist. Dec 22nd, 2012. Link.
The unsayable truth about immigration: it's been a stunning success for Britain. The Telegraph. May 21st, 2015. Link.
You'll never guess where Wales' best Indian restaurant is. Wales Online. Oct 2nd, 2014. Link.