During this half term I went to London. My mum and I were planning on absorbing as much artistic culture as we could, so we made a list of things we had to see; the two Tates of course, the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery, as well as Saatchi, the Serpentine and small galleries full of upcoming artists – all this in four days! You can see we hadn’t really thought it through.
Well, now we’re back and I can actually say that my favourite parts of the whole trip were the parts in between the galleries, when we were running from one to the next with maps and bags. Because as we ran, we bumped into all sorts of people. The Greek selling us French pies; two old Egyptian men discussing Libya; the Korean girl serving us Japanese soup; a German couple arguing over tube stops (I think, my German isn’t so good); a North African girl, very anxious about the state of her hair; an Arab market trader; a Russian grandmother saying something very complicated to her grandson; and several thousand other passers-by, probably representing every single country in the world! Now, you’re probably wondering what my point is. Well, very simply it’s this: multiculturalism is good! It’s wonderful! And when I read complaints by people who say that immigration will be the death of the UK, that immigrants are a burden to British society, I can’t help but wonder where they’ve been all their life?! Even if we just consider culture, Britain is so wonderful because it incorporates so many different cultures into its own, not despite them!
As for the more political and economic side of it? Well, I would like to point out that Britain is one of those countries suffering from an “ageing population”. What this means is that the proportion of people over the age of 60 is larger than that of people under 16, and too large to be supported by the working population. Ageing populations entail rising tax burdens to fund the increasing pensions and health care. The government’s response has been to raise retirement age and reduce pensions. If we just consider our side of the population pyramid – that is to say the people under 30 – many have argued that raising the retirement age is denying us jobs. So these solutions are problematic, and furthermore they have a very limited effect. And this is just the economic side of it.
They also have a limited effect because one of the root causes of ageing populations is falling fertility rates. Therefore, immigrants could also be good for Britain from an economic point of view. They would increase fertility rates and the proportion of the working population, thereby lightening taxes to fund pensions and healthcare. I’m not claiming to hold the solutions to Britain’s immigration problems here. They are too complex to address in this short space and my grasp of politics and economics is too weak. What I hope I have done instead is shown that multiculturalism and therefore immigration are very positive aspects of British culture. For those who aren’t convinced, go to London and just take the Underground. Listen to all the languages you can hear and imagine how dull it would be if everyone was talking in English.