Canada, Australia and the UK have topped a list of countries where the public has a favourable opinion of immigrants and view newcomers as a “strength” rather than a burden, a survey by Pew Research Center has revealed.
Conducted in Spring 2018, the survey revealed that out of the 18 countries hosting half (51%) the world’s migrants, the majority of respondents living in 10 nations believe that immigrants make their countries stronger.
“Japan is making efforts to attract more migrants due to its ageing population”
These included the US, Germany, UK, France, Canada and Australia, which each hosted more than seven million immigrants in 2017.
Canada – host to 572,415 study permit holders as of December 2018 – was revealed to be the most accepting of immigrants. Some 68% of Canadian respondents said they believe immigrants make the country stronger while 27% described immigrants as a liability because they “take jobs and social benefits”.
The country was followed by Australia where 64% favoured immigration, the UK and Sweden (62% respectively).
Despite 29% of respondents in the UK viewing newcomers as a burden on society, international education stakeholders in the UK have long championed the contributions made by international students financially and through diversifying campuses and communities to help develop more tolerant societies.
To ensure the UK continues to attract and welcome them, the post-study leave period has been extended to six months for undergraduate and masters students and a year for all doctoral students.
Meanwhile Japan, which allowed a record number of international graduates to work in 2017, rounded out the top five with 59% in favour of immigrants.
“Japan is making efforts to attract more migrants due to its ageing population,” explained authors of the survey, senior researchers Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Phillip Connor.
Despite the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant sentiment, 59% of US respondents said immigrants make the country stronger because of their work and skills, while one-third (34%) said immigrants are a burden.
US-based respondents were also more likely to say immigrants do not increase the risk of terrorism (56%), compared to 39% who said they did.
By contrast, majorities in seven European nations – Hungary, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands – said they believe immigrants increase the risk of terrorism in their countries.
In six EU countries surveyed, public perception about immigration was revealed to have shifted since 2014, with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees.
In Greece, Germany and Italy, the share of adults in favour of immigrants was revealed to have dropped significantly, while in France, the UK and Spain, majorities said immigrants made their countries stronger, up from about half who said the same in 2014.
Additionally, the opinions on migrants was not equally shared across all demographics.
“In most countries surveyed, those on the left of the ideological spectrum are more positive about immigration’s impact on their country than those on the right,” the authors explained.
“Those with higher levels of education, younger adults, and those with higher incomes are more likely to say immigrants make their countries stronger because of their work and talents.”
However, public attitudes were mixed on immigrants’ willingness to adapt to their new country’s customs and way of life, the authors continued.
In six destination countries – Japan, Mexico, South Africa, US, France and Sweden – the public were more likely to say immigrants want to integrate adopt the host country’s customs than to feel immigrants wished to remain “distinct”.
“Those with higher levels of education…are more likely to say immigrants make their countries stronger”
By contrast, majorities in five countries surveyed – Hungary, Greece, South Africa, Russia and Israel – see immigrants as a burden to their countries.
“With the exception of Russia, these countries each have fewer than 5 million immigrants,” it explained.
Meanwhile, public opinion on the impact of immigrants was found to be divided in the Netherlands -where a recent boom in international student numbers has put a strain on housing in some cities – with some 42% seeing immigrants as a burden on the country.
And in Italy and Poland, more said immigrants are a burden, while substantial minorities in these countries were revealed to not lean one way or the other (31% and 20% respectively).
Written by Kerrie Kennedy