Migration is one of the greatest challenges facing modern society. The OECD estimates there are currently 232 million migrants globally, while Migration Policy Institute data shows the United States is the most common destination.
Reactionaries see this as a threat. But as socially conscious business leaders we should be seizing the opportunity it creates – to build closer communities, a better society and stronger businesses.
The Great “Debate”
The arguments against migration are all too well covered in the press. While politicians in America discuss whether to build a wall or just use armed men to keep out our neighbors, Europe grapples with the crisis triggered by sudden and massive migration from Syria, a country devastated by environmental collapse, fundamentalist politics and civil war. While Canada sets an example by welcoming refugees as human beings, most of the West is screaming in alarm. The arguments are simple – these people will take our jobs and destroy our culture.
In reality, the sort of people who migrate are disproportionately those who will contribute well to the economy. Demonizing them creates the sort of dysfunctional society of which politicians often complain. Embracing them can help us to build a better workforce.
Addressing the Facts
The truth is immigrants are not taking on the same jobs that American-born workers prefer. They are around fifty per cent more likely to work in service or heavy labor jobs, and significantly less likely to work in the professional and office-based occupations that provide the greatest status and wealth. Immigrants are taking on the jobs Americans don’t want.
Nor are we seeing a rise in immigration so great it will destroy our social cohesion. Immigrant numbers were as high in the early 1900s as they are now, and society did not fall apart. Yes, America is full of migrants and their descendants – just ask the Cherokee how long that’s been going on – but it needn’t be a problem.
It’s important to consider the types of people who become immigrants. Bringing together the results of extensive research on the subject, the American Psychological Association has shown immigrants are disproportionally physically and behaviorally healthy, and capable of high educational achievement. If you don’t want people like that working for your business, then you’re missing something fundamental about what makes a good employee.
Immigrants and Your Business
Let’s get selfish for a moment. After all, isn’t that how the immigration debate works?
The best employees are those who have the intelligence, determination and creativity to do a good job, regardless of the other skills they come into a job with. You can train someone to be an accountant or an administrator, but you can’t build those qualities from scratch. As immigrants are disproportionally psychologically robust and capable of learning well, actively recruiting from migrant communities increases the likelihood of finding candidates with these qualities.
It’s not enough to just accept migrant applicants for the interview stage of recruitment. For a whole host of reasons, it can be hard for immigrants to stay informed about employment opportunities. But you make choices about where to advertise a job, so look for options that will reach those communities, whether local radio stations, magazines, websites or immigrant support groups. Encourage them to come to you.
Those opposing immigration complain about a fractured society and disconnected communities. By employing migrants you can help to prevent that and help the people others demonize. The reason the early 1900s didn’t tear America apart is that communities eventually integrated into the existing society. By reaching out to the best and brightest in the immigrant community, you can help that integration to happen faster this time, and help those far from home to find their feet in a new home.