Is the immigration we are all talking about a force for good or bad? It’s an interesting time for me to pose this question as I find myself currently in the process of my own migration.
Immigration has been a core theme in all debates around the Brexit referendum and a burning topic in recent years. Recent campaigns made much mention of the controversial topic and as such a rise in far right movements across Europe is starting to gain traction, much to the majority’s concern. But, when it comes down to it, how much do we really need to be concerned? Is the immigration we are all talking about a force for good or bad? It’s an interesting time for me to pose this question as I find myself currently in the process of my own migration.
Immigrant is a word that nowadays comes with a lot of unhealthy connotations. As an immigrant to New Zealand, I am an emigrant in the eyes of the UK, and more technically a ‘Third Country National’. There are many like me in the UK and here in New Zealand, but it seems the attitudes of their general populaces towards immigration are poles apart. It is particularly enlightening that this country, which I now dub my adopted second home, holds a completely different and more positive view culturally when it comes to immigrants. Although relatively young by comparison, New Zealand is distinguished worldwide in its multicultural development. A place that has grown from strength to strength on the back of new arrivals whom it generally welcomes for the skills and diversity they bring.
Many will correctly note that, logistically, it is a vastly different affair when comparing NZ with the UK. The UK is 10% smaller in area, has 60 million more people in that space and is vastly more accessible. I draw no associations there. But for two nations who share so much in terms of culture, it is interesting to note it is currently estimated that New Zealand’s net migration gain is running at three times the rate of the UK’s.
I was privileged of late to attend an intimate interview with Sir Ron Carter, one of the pioneers of the company that I have recently joined. Sir Ron, one of the few members of the order of New Zealand, is an incredibly interesting man who has achieved more in one lifetime than most can ever aspire to. What struck home for me was the level of affection with which Sir Ron spoke about his learnings from mentor George Beca. He affably recounted the fact that George, son of a Lebanese immigrant, had transferred his Lebanese trading roots through to the foundations of Beca. The company was forged through diversity, with a flat hierarchical structure - before this term had even been coined. Open to global opportunities, seeking worldwide partnerships and continued through its fundamental principles, including what they look for during recruitment.
One of the key takeaways from all this was the value of diversity in all its marvellous forms. Much like your stock portfolio, diversification is going to lead to maximum returns. Diversity in skill and discipline, in gender, race, religion, in ideas and ideals. Pooling the concepts of the many unique individuals to find the most interesting, innovative and effective approach. Client needs will intensify, become more complex and specific, and only by having individuals who can think outside of the box can you regularly meet them. The best way to accomplish this is through those that have worked in different environments, with different personalities, with different inherent learnings which can challenge the norm.
My exodus from the UK was organic. A man in love with travelling the world who ended up bumping into this country, care of a mixture of affectionate anecdotes and a love of the outdoors. It certainly wasn’t financial incentive that drew me here, nor an increase in welfare benefits or free health services. Culture is what is important in the place you reside. We should not be afraid of losing our sovereignty due to the mixing with others, we should celebrate the transformation. New Zealand is truly remarkable, a place which not only welcomes but celebrates your diversity. The more ideas the better – and that is transparent in the social and business environment.
I would hope that at home, through all the bitterness, most are realising that diversity is what makes the UK, not breaks it. Just look at the newest London mayor and our multi-national workforces. None of us are truly local. We are all citizens of the world, and by sheer luck or fate you happen to be where you are geographically. By savouring and making the most of a mixture of people and backgrounds, you gain the widest perspective on everything. New Zealand is the embodiment of this multiculturalism. And a place I feel privileged to soon officially call home.
Read more about my views on Brexit in my article 'Brexit Battles.'