Disclosure: The frantic labour effort expended on finishing our new house in time for Christmas will succeed on the back of Polish, Romanian, Russian and Latvian workers--all supervised by an Irish site crew. The day crew doesn't wear work permits on their overalls.
CONCERNED ABOUT MULTICULTURALISM, Ireland is looking at ways to better integate foreign nationals into Irish society. Hot tip: if you want to know why second- and third-generation immigrants integrate more easily in the States than in Ireland, simply examine job opportunities and home ownership. Let people work and let them buy their own homes and you develop a healthy level of multiculturalism. Charlemagne explains:
Work is the archetypal social activity. It provides friends and contacts beyond your family or ethnic group. If you start your own company, it pulls you further into the society around you. And here is a striking difference between Europe and America. Unemployment in France is almost 10%. Among immigrants or the children of immigrants, it is at least twice and sometimes four times as high. In contrast, unemployment among legal immigrants in America is negligible, and business ownership is off the scale compared with Europe.
The second big motor of integration is home-ownership, especially important in the second and third generations. This gives people a stake in society, something they can lose. Thanks to cheap mortgages and an advanced banking system, half of Latinos in AMerica own their own homes. Britain, after its council-house sales and property booms, also encourages house ownership. In contrast, most of the blocks in the French banlieues are publicly owned.
Between them, a job and a house help to create not only more integration but also greater social mobility. Latinos supported America's turn towards assimilation because they feared the trap of Spanish-language ghettos. But the banlieues are full of people who have grown up without jobs, or any hope of getting a better income or a better place to live. For them, integration is a deceit, not a promise.
A job and a house will not solve everything. The father of one of the July 7th London bombers owned two shops, two houses, and a Mercedes. But if you want to know why second- and third-generation immigrants integrate more in some countries than others, jobs and houses are a good place to start.
Charlemagne -- "Minority Reports" in The Economist, November 12, 2005.