Immigration Lessons from Canada

A Canada Day celebration in Ottawa, July 1, 2013
A Canada Day celebration in Ottawa, July 1, 2013 (Adrian Berg)

Joseph Heath, a professor at the University of Toronto, sees five reasons why Canada has been more successful at integrating migrants than Europe and the United States:

  1. Very little illegal immigration. This helps explain the difference in attitudes with the United States but not with Western Europe, where illegal immigration is also low.
  2. A political system that encourages moderation. I think this has more to do with political culture than the system. Heath argues that first-past-the-post makes it difficult for nativists to prevail. Parties need to appeal to the center. But it doesn’t stop nativists from influencing the mainstream right, as they did in the United Kingdom. To stem defections to UKIP that could split the right-wing vote and allow Labour to sneak into first place, the Conservatives felt they had to become more insular. And clearly in a two-party system, like America’s, nativists can come out on top.
  3. Immigrants are part of larger nation-building project. Immigrants ended up strengthening Canadians’ sense of nationhood because, unlike the First Nations, Westerners and Quebecers, they embraced national symbols. Persuasive, but it’s hard to see how other countries could mimic this.
  4. Protection of majority culture clear from the start. This is rooted in Canada’s unique history but could be a lesson to others. Heath argues that the need to appease Quebecers led to equal cultural and language protections for the English and French, as a result of which the majority felt unthreatened by newcomers.
  5. Bringing people in from all over. I think this is the key. There is no “majority minority” in Canada. Heath reports that, in a typical year, no group makes up more than 15 percent of the total number of immigrants. Hence no parallel societies could emerge in Canada, like the predominantly Muslim banlieues of Paris, immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Latino districts in major cities across the United States. Their existence hinders assimilation and makes visible the threat immigrants pose to the dominant culture. Read more

Finland’s Brain Drain: When Talent Leaves a Small Country

View of Helsinki, Finland from the sea, May 13, 2010
View of Helsinki, Finland from the sea, May 13, 2010 (Aaronigma)

Young Finnish professionals are attracted to major European capitals. They move to Stockholm, Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as farther away. The sun shines in Dubai; the world’s top organizations and institutes are in New York and Washington. The occupations of these migrants are manifold: bankers, graphic designers, computer engineers, photographers and researchers, to name only a few.

They leave Finland because of poor employment opportunities and future prospects. This has been happening for a long time. Finns were moving to North America 100 years ago and to Sweden after World War II — in both cases because growing economies needed factory workers.

The difference with today’s migrants is they are better educated (PDF) and leaving a welfare state that ranks as one of the best places to live in the world according to most indices. The likelihood of them returning has nevertheless fallen sharply. Why? Read more

Merkel’s Plan Strong on Taxes and Spending, Disappointing on Migration

Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, September 28, 2015
Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, September 28, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s party promises long-overdue investments in its election manifesto, but a plan for attracting high-skilled migrants is unconvincing.

The Christian Democrats, who are projected to win the most votes in September’s election, pledge to sustain recent increases in spending on digitalization and infrastructure and raise spending on research and development from 3 to 3.5 percent of the economy.

German public investment has languished for years as the Christian Democrats prioritized deficit reduction. The Dutch and Swedes invest twice as much in everything from electricity grids to roads. Read more

EU Threatens Sanctions Against Central European States

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło is welcomed by her Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, in Budapest, February 8, 2016
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło is welcomed by her Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, in Budapest, February 8, 2016 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

The European Union is clamping down on its recalcitrant Central European member states.

The European Commission has opened what is called an infringement procedure against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for failing to take in their share of refugees.

This comes on the heels of several probes into Hungary’s and Poland’s right-wing governments. Read more

How Climate Change Will Be the Biggest Geopolitical Crisis of the Century

French troops in Mali, May 2013
French troops in Mali, May 2013 (EMA/Ministère de la Défense)

America is out of the environmental protection businesses; so says the haughty God-Emperor Donald Trump, whose word is apparently law.

Too bad even god-emperors cannot change facts. Too bad, especially, for the billions who are almost certain to be disrupted, displaced and decimated by the looming geopolitical effects of climate change.

That basic truth is denied heartily by many who have incentive to play games for short-term gain. These are old-school industrial concerns, for whom environmental regulation hammers a bottom line; alt-right, alt-truthers, for whom simple science is a threat to their incoherent worldview; and shattered working classes, seeking a simple scapegoat for the complicated story of their economic dissolution and disenfranchisement. Read more

Trump Supporters Haven’t Been Hurt by Immigration or Trade

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19 (Gage Skidmore)

One theory of Donald Trump’s popularity has been turned on its head. Gallup’s Jonathan T. Rothwell argues in a working paper that the businessman’s voters are not in fact motivated by any disproportionate impact from immigration and trade.

Rothwell bases his analysis on interviews Gallup conducted with more than 87,000 American voters, including Trump supporters and Trump opponents. He then compared support for Trump to various other indicators, including proximity to the Mexican border (which Trump has famously promised to wall off), the share of manufacturing in local employment, educational attainment and racial segregation.

Some of his findings confirm widely-held beliefs. Trump’s voters are older than the general electorate and more likely to be retired; more male, more white, less likely to hold a college degree and more likely to work, or have worked, in a blue-collar profession.

But their average household income is actually higher than the general population’s and they are more likely to be self-employed than unemployed. Labor force participation is lower among Trump supporters, but not after adjusting for age.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise altogether. The website FiveThirtyEight previously reported that Trump’s supporters on average earn more than the average median household, belying the notion that they are working class. Read more

Democrats and Non-Trump Republicans Share Views

Traffic is reflected in the glass of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City, New York, October 23, 2011
Traffic is reflected in the glass of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City, New York, October 23, 2011 (Dave Powell)

On immigration and trade, Republicans who opposed Donald Trump have more in common with Democrats than they do with fellow party members who backed the businessman from the start.

A SurveyMonkey poll conducted for the website FiveThirtyEight found that whereas 76 percent of Trump’s supporters want immigration to fall, only 21 percent of anti-Trump Republicans agree it must come down. That’s close to the 26 percent of Democrats who say immigration is too high.

61 percent of non-Trump Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats, by contrast, agree that immigration should stay more or less the same. The remaining 17 and 22 percent, respectively, would welcome higher immigration.

There is similar cross-party agreement on trade. Half of Trump’s supporters think trade deals are bad for the American economy; only 20 percent of anti-Trump Republicans agree against 28 percent of all Democrats.

By contrast, 55 percent of Republicans who don’t support Trump think free trade is generally good for the economy, as do 43 percent of Democrats. Read more