ER Editor: As Jan Heller’s piece moves to a consideration of the European welfare state, we also recommend this article by Daniel Lacalle for the Mises Institute, Europe’s Unsustainable Welfare State.
What Multiculturalism Hides
- The policy of multiculturalism, which emphasizes the benefits of cultural diversity for society and the state, is an example of the exploitation of others based on a fantasy of virtue. Those at whom the sweet talk of multiculturalism is aimed, can see that it has done nothing to improve their lot, and are now realizing that their future is bleak.
- If we bring in highly qualified immigrants to our workforce, we would be taking away from poorer countries the best they have to offer, and the situation in those countries will further deteriorate. The result will be an even greater flow of unskilled migrants escaping those countries.
- The proponents of the new multiculturalism want to share their welfare states with masses of refugees who — through no fault of their own – will be unable to participate in financing themselves for a long time to come.
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Multiculturalism is not a manifestation of Europe’s generosity, or some noble embodiment of love and truth. Multiculturalism is what remains after mass migration reveals itself as a threat, rather than a benefit, to the economies of European countries.
Take, for instance, the example of France. After the Second World War, when France underwent a boom of economic growth, waves of migration were viewed favorably: there were many job opportunities for unskilled and medium-skilled laborers, and the native French population aspired to work in the tertiary sector, which offered more qualified, better-paid jobs. From the end of the war until the mid-1970s, foreign workers tended to come to France temporarily, without their families, and return to their countries of origin. These workers were generally recruited from former French colonies to do menial and low-paying jobs — not in order to enrich the culture of the host country.
At the end of the 1970s, that situation changed. Foreign workers began coming to France with their families and also having children after arriving in the country. At the same time, however, there were changes in the economy that ended up leaving descendants of the recruited workers hopeless. While their parents had experienced some upward mobility, they themselves — even those with a higher level of education than their parents — were left with fewer job opportunities and became a surplus on the labor market; they also did not have another place to go. In other words, they had been born in a country that suddenly had nothing to offer. The only thing that the government could come up with was a rationale for the dire situation — a mission for these children of migrants: that they should enrich themselves culturally in the country to which their parents had migrated. This new policy of multiculturalism, which emphasizes the benefits of cultural diversity for society and the state, is an example of the exploitation of others based on a fantasy of virtue. Those at whom the sweet talk of multiculturalism is aimed can see that it has done nothing to improve their lot, and are now realizing that their future is bleak.
Now let us look at those who favor multiculturalism for the Czech Republic, in Eastern Europe, which has been resistant to it. What they do not grasp is that the Czech Republic today does not resemble France in the early part of the 20th century. We Czechs do not need to recruit foreign workers to perform menial jobs. On the contrary, we need to develop an economy based on skilled labor. It also does not make sense for us to seek highly skilled migrants for this purpose. Such migrants prefer countries whose languages they speak and in which they can earn higher wages than those offered in the Czech Republic. Furthermore, given the problematic nature of our current education system, which is unable adequately to prepare graduates for jobs in tech companies, it would be absurd for us to rely on technology experts from developing countries to rescue our economy.
Some politicians claim that we need a mass wave of immigrants to care for our elderly. This is controversial: in a new country, if they are unskilled, they will barely be able to care for themselves, let alone for others, and will present an additional burden to our already overburdened social security system. If, on the other hand, we bring in highly qualified immigrants to our workforce, we would be taking away from poorer countries the best they have to offer. What right do we have to use them to solve our own problems? If we take them away from their countries of origin, the situation in those countries will further deteriorate. The result will be an even greater flow of unskilled migrants escaping those countries. These new arrivals will create an even greater burden on the social security system than it will incentivize economic development. That consequence is not because migrants are lazier or less ambitious than the local population. Their disadvantages are due to other factors, such as difficulty with a new language and that they tend to have larger families.
For decades, there has been a debate in Europe between the effort to slim down the welfare state, as opposed to continuing it to meet the needs of various disadvantaged sectors of the population. This debate has intensified sharply as the mass wave of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East has threatened to increase significantly the number of welfare recipients in Europe.
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About the author
Prof. Jan Keller is a Czech Social Democrat Member of the European Parliament, sociologist, analyst, commentator and author of more than 30 books, including Sociology of the Organization and Bureaucracy (2007) or The Three Social Worlds (2011). He studied at the universities of Bordeaux (1985), Aix-en-Provence (1988) and Sorbonne (1992) in Paris. He has lectured sociology at the University of Lille, Poitiers, Trento, Lodz and Barcelona.
This article is based on a speech delivered at the seminar, “Is Mass Immigration a Condition for Prosperity of Europe?” held by the Institute Vaclav Klaus in Prague on March 19, 2015 and is published here with the kind permission of the author. It was translated into English by Josef Zbořil.