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Looks like the world doesn’t want migrants

November 7, 2007

Globalisation fascinates me and probably Axinia knows this because she sent me this very interesting report on global trade immigration. 45,000 people in 47 countries were surveyed and one of the questions that people were asked was whether immigration should be further restricted and controlled.

In democratic countries we all talk of free trade and free markets but there are always dissenters. And it’s not just in countries like India where democracy may have found roots but the shadow of socialism hovers…

There are dissenters even in the free market countries and while one keeps reading of this, I had no idea that such a large percentage of people from developed markets like the USA, Britain and Canada were against immigration, assuming ofcourse that this report has thrown up real trends. The reasons given in the report are that economies in the developed countries are slowing down and people are seeing immigration as a threat.

Take a look at this:

An overwhelming majority of those living in Italy, Spain, Britain, France, Argentina, Spain, Chile…gosh I’m naming almost all the countries aren’t I…well, they don’t want immigrants and it looks like it doesn’t matter whether the country is rich or poor. Peru and Sweden are slightly different, with less people against immigration. But although a large section of the people in these two countries are not in favour of controlling immigration, even here the majority does wants it controlled.


The next group: Countries from Eastern Europe and the Middle East:

It’s the same story. The majority of citizens from these countries want restrictions to be placed on immigration. The only region which has the majority disagreeing is the Palestine region.


The next group: Some Asian countries.

Except for China and Japan and South Korea, the rest have a huge majority which wants to restrict entry of migrants. South Korea seems to stand out as a glaring example of a country where the majority favour immigration. I am not sure why Japan and South Korea are not against immigration but the logical conclusion could be that they don’t have enough migrants. In contrast to say Britain and the United States.

Indians don’t favour immigration and in India it’s the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh that we are worried about. Many countries have this porous border problem but the developed countries are more worried about the legal immigration which their government encourages. Each country will have it’s own unique reason for it’s attitude to immigrants and if anyone can add to this post by sharing with readers why immigrants are not wanted in their country, please do!

Interestingly, the US government’s policies are changing, in keeping with popular sentiment An article in the March 17-23 issue of the The Economist talks about how America’s immigration policy is “demonising foreigners”. This is in contrast to what Australia, Canada, Britain and Germany are doing. But will these countries go the US way gradually? After all they are democracies and if there is strong opposition at home, some restrictions might have to be brought in. These doesn’t bode too well for the future of globalisation as these countries, being democractic, will vote in politicians who accede to their wishes.

A more positive scenario is if politicians and the governments can convince people of the benefits of globalisation. It’s a tough task as a person who feels that he is going to lose his job because of a foreign worker will not be willing to think in macro terms. At the end of the day we are all human!

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2007 10:37 am

    you raised a very good point…
    Indians are really hypocrites … they ill-treat immigrants from Bangladesh, sri lanka and even NE parts of our own country.. and then complain that USA/Dubai is not issuing them visa etc.

  2. November 7, 2007 11:06 am


    That some of the countries experiencing far more emigration than immigration say immigration should be controlled – and do so in larger % numbers of respondents – is greatly amusing.

    It just illustrates that such surveys indulge the universal human fear of the unknown, not much else.

    In fact I would go a step further and say there is no way to frame a question re immigration that will get anything but widespread opinion in favour of controlling it, as responses.

    In fact, a closer examination of actual legal immigration trends in many European countries will show that more people of the native kind (white, blond) move around than the people who are often “seen” as immigrants and are the flogging posts really in the respondents’ minds.

    Some countries’ immigration policies actively favour white people over non-whites c.f. Switzerland’s multiple circles.

    “…democracy may have found roots but the shadow of socialism hovers…”

    Er, not sure democracy and socialism are comparable entities. Democracy does not automatically mean capitalism or free markets.

  3. November 7, 2007 11:28 am

    Ankur, yeah you are right, we don’t even want people from other states of India! You can see this in Maharashtra where people have become very insecure and political parties like the Shiv Sena are using this to the hilt.

    Shefaly, I had realised that mistake about the democracy/socialism bit while having a bath and thinking over what I had written and immediately came to correct it thinking: better correct it before Shefaly points it out to me! See how afraid I have got of you! 🙂 But you beat me to it so I think I will not correct it.
    But I guess the overall gist of it must have been got by readers even if I am not technically correct. Hope it doesn’t sound too confused!
    About these surveys playing on human fears and therefore are incorrect, well I am not sure about that. Human fears are human fears Shefaly. And it’s not just in surveys but also in private that people say these things. In fact I would say it’s remarkable that they admitted these things in a survey because people want to be politically correct and say that they don’t mind the migrants.

  4. oemar permalink
    November 7, 2007 12:03 pm

    I had read a similar article on Swiss policies some time back

  5. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 7, 2007 12:46 pm


    //…countries like India where democracy may have found roots but the shadow of socialism hovers…//

    Are you suggesting that there is a contradiction between democracry and socialism?

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 7, 2007 12:54 pm


    Sorry! I jumped straight from your post to the reply box. Didn’t notice that Shefaly had made almost the same comment — and more fearlessly. 🙂

  7. November 7, 2007 1:00 pm


    Thanks for that link. So Switzerland is more strict than the US! I never knew it was so bad in Switzerland!

  8. November 7, 2007 1:04 pm

    I think for the US to reject immigration is for the US to reject it’s lifeblood. Immigration along with assimilation seem to be crucial aspects of what keeps the country going.

    There have always been strong anti-immigration lobbies in this country going back to the “Know-Nothing” Party of the early 1800’s. Fortunately, those lobbies haven’t won out in the long run.

  9. November 7, 2007 1:41 pm

    @Vivek Khadpekar:

    I am very sorry to have made that mistake Vivek. 🙂
    This is what happens when one is in a hurry. And otherwise too I am sure.
    As for fear I am the one who trembles!! 🙂 After all I get 1500-2000 readers everyday. If you feel that I have too stupid however, don’t hesitate to drop me a mail.

  10. November 7, 2007 1:57 pm

    @Paul Sunstone:

    Paul, thanks.
    Well I hope you are right and these parties don’t win out in the long run. A lot will be decided by the policies of the next president. I am eagerly awaiting the presidential election in America. I prefer Hillary…

  11. November 7, 2007 2:06 pm


    Quick ones:

    1. The US is not strict, it is fair. Switzerland is plain racist. 🙂 I have worked in both countries and my experience of obtaining just the work visas was remarkably different.

    In one case I was an investor in the country and in the other, a research fellow. Even the border control people are different. Others have different experiences perhaps, but as a non-white woman, who travels alone on work, I have only ever experienced similar negativity in Paris CDG and nowhere else.

    2. As for “See how afraid I have got of you!”: I am not sure I should be thrilled. 😦

    A lady, introduced to me by a mutual friend, whom I met on Monday, and who saw me reading a book on the history of disfluencies and verbal blunders, emailed me yesterday. The opening line was – “before i write anything else – please do not judge my grammar”. Hmm.

  12. Bharath permalink
    November 7, 2007 3:08 pm

    Many countries favours immigration to bring in tens of thousands of workers and their families…

    I read this comment somewhere: “If we as a province are to find success in immigration, we require a more open and generous perspective – one that is less about what we want and more about what newcomers need.”

    I like your last line of this post – “At the end of the day we are all human!”.. See individuals as individuals, and not by creed, colour and caste

  13. November 7, 2007 6:19 pm

    Nita, I too am eagerly awaiting the next presidential election — it might well be the most important one of my life. The polls currently show the Democrats set to sweep all three branches of the Government. That would give me great joy, except I’ve known the Democrats long enough to know they are fully capable of messing up any lead.

    From what I hear, Hillary supports more liberal immigration policies than most of the candidates.

  14. November 8, 2007 12:13 am

    nice post
    small town folks r even more hostile
    while in kerala i saw how some of the locals from interiors behaved even with tourists it was like we were aliens if we didnt know tamil or malyalam

    agreed that parties that have a part in making this mess take advantage
    on the other side of things look at the mess called mumbai
    these days there are so many migrants that we are facing el nino effect , with delayed rains summer conditions in november etc due to vast illegal squating and big builder lobby cutting the green cover and mangroves

    the locals have vastly been outnumbered and squatting is becoming a profitable business, run through free housing and taxing the middle class to the hilt

    ankur iltreating is because of mass illegal immigration
    and also other factors

  15. November 8, 2007 12:09 pm

    The post is definitely an eye-opener. It is something that all of knew latently that we prefer to get fair treatment as immigrants but we loathe to give it to emigrants. A glaring example of this is when you get to see negroes (rarely though) on Indian streets. The kids invariably shout “kallu”. But for a white man walking an Indian street all he get is simply the awe-struck look. Talk of India’s fascination with color!
    But yeah over all your post finally taught me that globalization may bring a relatively leveled economic play-field but culturally i don’t think it is happening in my lifetime!

  16. November 8, 2007 12:19 pm

    @ Minal:

    It is fascinating to see you use the word ‘negro’ at all.

    Indians continue to use words that have long gone down as taboos to describe specific communities.

    It is not an uncommon thing in London to overhear Indian tourists loudly saying words like ‘negro’ and ‘Paki’ in tightly packed trains or at tourist spots. The word ‘Paki’ is not used to mean Pakistani here; it is also used derogatorily for Indians and most natives cannot tell the two groups apart, even though the groups themselves can.

    In response to someone referring to the Japanese as ‘Japs’, I made this point on the Indian Economy blog (where I occasionally write) and all the readers jumped at my throat at once.

    And as for being fascinated by white people, plenty of desis in the UK use the word ‘gora’ to deride someone’s whiteness. The fascination ends when the white person ceases to be a minority. And yes, they say this too aloud in stores etc when almost all white British people know what the word means, thanks to Goodness Gracious Me.

  17. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 8, 2007 1:18 pm


    //most natives cannot tell the two groups apart//

    How about the word “natives”?

    Incidentally, while I do conform to current prescriptions about political correctness, I find the protocol on “negro” quite amusing.

    I learnt about 25 years ago that it was no longer considered a proper word to use, and that “black” was more acceptable (even though “negro” means exactly the same thing in Spanish).

    Then that, too, became non-PC, and “African American”, I believe, became the correct thing to say.

    How does one refer to them (if one HAS to, that is) outside of the North American context?

  18. November 8, 2007 4:59 pm


    “How about the word “natives”?”

    I would let a native challenge that 🙂

    In the UK, we have a lot of confusion about how to refer to black people because they cannot be lumped together like Asians. They come from many parts of Africa, Carribean etc. So afro-carribean is often used as a safe catch-all.

  19. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 9, 2007 5:21 pm


    That doesn’t really help. Whether Carribean or North American, they are all of African origin. Just different waves of “migration”, some of them direct and some via someplace.

  20. November 11, 2007 11:31 am

    It would be really interesting to find out opinion from potential immigrants about what the immigration policy should be.

    For example consider potential immigrant 20 something from India, Chine, Sri Lanka. Bangladesh, Pakistan with/without an IT background, with a chance to study masters in UK, US, Australia, nowadays even Singapore and Canada.

    me personally feel that Immigration should be controlled, mainly because its more or less becoming “sone ka anda” story, where we are trying to milk too much of a golden egg laying goose.

    I have seen literally the anguish of the localites at seeing Indians in the US, sooner we will become the foreign daemons who take up their jobs.

    I won’t be happy if that happens in India, and I can understand what the people there are going through,

  21. November 11, 2007 12:52 pm


    “I have seen literally the anguish of the localites at seeing Indians in the US, sooner we will become the foreign daemons who take up their jobs.”

    Ironically the anguish at immigrants is expressed mainly by those locals – I said ‘mainly’ not ‘exclusively’ – who, even if these migrants did not come in and take those jobs, could never fill those jobs. It is not a statement of hubris but a statement of how things are..

    Overseas students in the UK pay, at graduate degree level, about 3 times the home students’ fees. However their numbers are increasing and the Confederation of British Industry reports that UK universities increasingly source graduate students in science from abroad.

    Although you mix many metaphors (milking a goose?? 🙂 ), immigration is like everything else. It has mixed outcomes just like all else. Its success depends on a society’s risk propensity as well as their ability to take control of their own long-term destiny. (For a parallel, think developmental aid. Some countries thrive with its help; some decline despite it. But since it involves money, everybody is happy to take it!)

    BTW you live in Bangalore. Which has a large Tamil population so much so that when I lived there, in restaurants, if one wanted water, one asked for it in Tamil and not Kannada.

    Do you see them as immigrants? Who have taken Kannadiga jobs? How long do they have to stay before they cease to be called ‘outsiders’?

    Mobility at many levels is what humans have always engaged in. The scope and the reasons have changed. And as long as they bring value to the host nation, host nations will take them in.

  22. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 11, 2007 1:21 pm


    //How long do they have to stay before they cease to be called ‘outsiders’?//

    I can’t speak for other countries. For Indians migrating within the country, all I can say is, as soon as they can exhibit a modicum of genuine sensitivity to the local culture (especially language, cuisine) and shake themselves out of the “we are superior/different” syndrome.

  23. November 13, 2007 12:56 pm

    very interesting post and the comments as well!

    A point about Minal’s comment on our fascination with colour: f Sonia Gandhi were a African or a African American woman, I am pretty certain she would have had a much lower chance of getting accepted. Even with the Gandhi surname.

    Secondly, regarding Rambler’s post about migrants taking up the jobs of locals- let me tell you the Americans just dont want to sit and do mind-numbing code! They would love to work in Apple and Google coming up with next-generation stuff but ask them to sit and test code and they will not like it! My sister works in MS in Seattle and keeps talking about how many Indians she interviews for such positions.

    Also, I completely concur with Shefaly’s comments on the locals who complain about immigrants taking their jobs are the ones who would have never got that job in the first place!.

  24. November 13, 2007 12:59 pm

    And missed out this about the South Koreans and Japanese:

    A report on BBC talked about how they favour immigration as long as it is people from Philippines, Vietnam etc who come in to do chores such as cleaning toilets and washing the dishes in restaurants. But otherwise, these two societies are the most insular in the world.

  25. November 13, 2007 7:02 pm


    Thanks for that link Prashant. Even I wondered about this…as I had heard that the society is pretty closed. Specially the Japanese society.
    When people are asked about migrants they only think of the migrants in relation to their own narrow little world, whether they are Indian, Japanese or American. And when they saw yes or no to migrants they are only talking about the migrants who they see around them. I guess this is pretty obvious but one is often not aware of the kind of migrants in other places. In India for example we are flooded with migrants from Bangladesh and Nepal and there is resentment against them.

  26. November 13, 2007 8:12 pm

    see, it’s not about “immigrants take away our jobs” as much as it is like protesting against a dog that hasn’t been house-trained entering your house.
    immigrants should add to the culture of their adopted home, or they should quite simply merge with the mainstream. they shouldnt affect their new home with their negatives. it would be better to simply adopt that culture.
    and, with madrid bombings, 9/11 and london train bombings, it’s no surprise people want to control immigration.

  27. November 13, 2007 9:05 pm


    I guess you are right! It’s best to see ourselves from their eyes. It’s only when the shoe is on the other foot that realisation dawns for most people.

  28. November 13, 2007 9:38 pm


    Apart from 911, the other two bombings were carried out by locally born, locally educated – in case of some, very well-educated and mainstream – people choosing to go awry.

    A vast % of immigrant (Muslim, in this particular case of bombings) population in the UK is moderate, well-integrated and low profile. They do not blow themselves up at every opportunity. It is wrong to project on the whole ethnic group extrapolating from a minority.

    It is harder to extrapolate from this line of argument to explain white Muslim converts (locally born) or Irish migrants who loyalties lie with Ireland even after generations.

    Particularly in the UK, people discuss immigration not so much in terms of terrorism but in terms of the pressure on our universal access, socialised services.

    Spain too has a long historical Islamic tradition and they are more than conscious of it.

    There is no amount of integration that can take away the fact that a lot of respondents of such surveys have non-white people in mind when – at least in the UK – some white immigrants and white local people make lower contribution to the economy and greater contribution to crime statistics than some non-white groups often invoked as ghosts.


  29. Sahil permalink
    December 22, 2007 2:37 pm

    It is indeed ironical, people in these Western countries oppose immigration and at the same time, they want migrant workers to come and share their burden of social security. It’s like you come, work for many years, contribute to the system buy taxes and social security but DON’T expect anything in return. Even when you benefit our countries, we don’t want you to assimilate with us!

    With their rapidly falling demographics, all Western countries can’t survive without dynamic immigrants who give their life and blood to their economic engines.

    People in the West opposed to immigration are like crying babies who want you to pass them the feeding bottle but won’t let you near them. It’s like having your cake and eating it too!

  30. December 22, 2007 2:42 pm

    @ Sahil:

    I do not think many ordinary people comprehend the issue so much in terms of the survival of their social security in the long term, more in terms of losing their jobs in the short term. So there is nothing ironic about it at all.They just do not want migrants, period.

    However your broader argument holds water. If only more people comprehended it…

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