What should be done to foster multi-ethnic societies? Policy recommendations from FutureLab Europe

06. October 2015

What policy measures should be adopted to promote inclusive societies? What are young Europeans’ suggestions to promote migrants’ full participation in their countries political life?

Last September, FutureLab Europe circulated a survey1 asking young Europeans what should be done to foster multi-ethnic societies. The survey included 8 policy questions, covering four macro-areas: labour market inclusion, equal opportunities & anti-discrimination, respect for diversity and political participation.

At the 2015 FutureLab Europe Annual Forum, FutureLab Europe fifth generation, split into small groups, discussed the results of the survey, debating in depth risks and opportunities associated with each suggested policy question.

FutureLabbers presented the results of the survey and subsequent debate to Brenda King, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee and Chief Executive of African & Caribbean Diversity and Ana Feder, Policy Advisor at Eurocities.

The survey results and a summary of the discussion that took place at our Annual Forum are presented below.

LABOUR MARKET INCLUSION

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70% of survey respondents said that barriers preventing migrants from being employed in the civil service should be removed.

During their discussion at the Annual Forum, FutureLabbers agreed that the inclusion of migrants in the civil service could bring in the system innovative ideas and practices, including an alternative approach to inclusion and development policies. In addition to this, allowing migrants to work in civil services could increase cooperation and trust between different segments of society. At the same time, FutureLabbers acknowledged that the neutralityand loyalty to the system of migrants could represent an argument against the removal of such barriers.

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The vast majority of survey respondents (97%) were in favour of special initiatives to inform migrants/foreign workers about labour law and standard working conditions of the host country.

FutureLabbers agreed that this would expand migrants’ access to the labour market and promote equal opportunities. In particular, they stressed that informing foreign workers about labour laws is fundamental to give them tools to avoid abuse and mistreatment in the workplace. FutureLabbers noted that possible challenges associated with initiatives of this sort would be related to the quality, efficiency and resources used to invest in these programmes.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES / ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

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To the question “Should there be positive discrimination in the education system in order to give easier access to good schools and universities to migrant children?” respondents polarized, with 56% of yes and 44% of noanswers.

During the debate, FutureLabbers agreed that introducing quotas to increase migrants’ access to quality education would offer a quick solution to promote migrants’ inclusion in society and help creating a more diverse elite. On the other hand, FutureLabbers warned that the introduction of quotas in the education system does not tackle the root causes of migrants’ insufficient participation in education. In addition to this, a similar measure could increaseresentment towards migrants among the local population, having counterproductive effects.

According to 87% of our survey respondents, cities should actively promote multi-ethnic neighbourhoods.

FutureLabbers agreed that multi-ethnic neighbourhoods can foster integration, uniting different communities through proximity and increasing the understanding among people with different cultural backgrounds. On the other side, they also pointed out how promoting multi-ethnic neighbourhoods should not be considered a solution in itself. In fact, it is not per se a solutionto tensions between different groups and should be complemented with policy measures that promote dialogue among different communities.

RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY

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80% of survey respondents agreed that people should be free to wear religious symbols in public.

According to FutureLabbers, allowing religious symbols could foster acceptance of diversity, promoting the social inclusion of every member of society. At the same time, FutureLabbers identified possible risks associated to policies allowing people to wear religious symbols in public. In particular, they noted the security risk associated with the identification of people who might be for example wearing burka or niqab, and the possiblestrumentalisation of religious symbols by radical groups.

A striking 94% of our survey respondents agreed that civil society should be actively engaged in learning about migrants’ cultures.

FutureLabbers recognized this as a prerequisite for inclusion, which would increase understanding and decrease polarization due to the so-called fear of the unknown. According to FutureLabbers though, informing the local population about migrants’ cultures raises a number of challenges, such as the amount resources made available for these programmes or the quality of the information being conveyed. In addition to this, national and local authorities could struggle attracting to these programmes citizens who are already outside the education system, and therefore encounter resistance in the local population.

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

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The majority of survey respondents (67%) agreed that migrants should be given the right to vote in national and/or local elections.

At the Annual Forum, FutureLabbers pointed out that this would promote integration and increase the responsiveness of the political system to the instances of all residents. Giving voting rights to migrants would alsorebalance the electorate, in many cases dominated by the elderly and public sector employees. At the same time, they agreed that not allowing non-nationals to vote would minimise the risk of foreign influence (as foreign governments could try to influence the political process through their nationals)as well as the emergence of ethnic parties (if a certain groups of immigrants would establish an ethnic based, single-issue political party, this could possibly weaken existing ones and increase segregation).

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The question “Should there be mandatory legal quotas for minorities and migrants in parliaments and/or public administration?” received a majority ofno answers (61%) by survey respondents.

While debating this question, FutureLabbers acknowledged that introducing quotas for migrants in the political system could backfire, increasingresentment in the local population. On the other hand, their introduction could bring about positive effects such as a better protection of minorities, the promotion of migrants’ inclusion in the political system, as well as the stimulation of their political participation.

Footnotes

1. Total number of respondents: 71. All respondents were aged 20-32 years old. The survey was disseminated through the FutureLab Europe network with a snowball sampling.