This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Geneva Takes a Stab at Improving Swiss Immigrant Integration

According to the Multicultural Policy Index employed by Adida and her colleagues in the book "Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies," which I discussed a few days ago, Switzerland is closer to being multicultural than assimilationist. At the same time, it is closer to being assimilationalist than several other key European nations. A sign of that came this week in Geneva:
The city of Geneva has decided to provide key administrative documents and public information in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Albanian and Arabic to help new residents integrate. Previously, many of these documents had been available only in French.
The authorities announced the move on Tuesday, explaining that every year Geneva welcomes more than 20,000 new residents, many of whom do not speak French.
“The city of Geneva experiences major migration movements,” Geneva mayor Esther Alder told the Tribune de Gen√®ve on Wednesday. “Around 50% of residents are of foreign origin and 10% of the population is renewed every year.”
Now, to be sure, this is only Geneva. Switzerland's 26 cantons have a lot of individual discretion among them. And Geneva is a truly international city, hosting a lot of United Nations offices and other international bodies. By contrast, the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino banned the wearing of full face covers, especially burqas. And a popular referendum started in the canton of Bern led to a nation-wide ban on the building of minarets on mosques. For its part, a small group of Muslims then demanded that the cross be removed from the Swiss flag. On both sides, these are the kinds of actions that lead to a failure of Muslim integration in societies, which is why Geneva's positive move--even if a seemingly small gesture--is so important. This is exactly how California and most other U.S. states have responded to the inflow of immigrants. No matter how important it is for immigrants to learn the host language, the acceptance of their own language as a valid medium of communication is also crucial to the integration process. 

Note that currently about 5% of the Swiss population is Muslim, largely a consequence of immigration from the Baltic states (Kosovo and Serbia) and Turkey. That's about 5 times the percent Muslim in the U.S. but of course Switzerland has a vastly smaller overall population. 

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