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Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiculturalism with Examples

Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiculturalism with Examples

Multiculturalism is the peaceful coexistence of a culturally diverse or multiethnic population in a country. Through this OpinionFront article, you can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of multiculturalism, along with some of its examples.
Rujuta Patil
Multiculturalism in India
The Constitution of India recognizes two kinds of minorities - linguistic and religious.

A handshake, a tight hug, a gesture like bowing down, a kiss on the cheek, or something quite unique like sticking one's tongue out at someone... these are all various kinds of greetings followed by people of different cultures on the planet. Beyond the 'interesting-to-know reaction', how do we really see these little cultural differences?

Finding a true answer to this question can make us contemplate and delve deeper into philosophical questions. Let's not go there for now, but we can definitely find out how societies with a culturally diverse population thrive and progress. A unified acceptance, respect, and tolerance are probably some of the values that underlie multiculturalism in several countries today.

Definition of Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism can be defined as cultural diversity or the evolution of it, where people from different ethnicities coexist; it can also refer to an integrative policy adopted by a multicultural nation.

The meaning of the term multiculturalism can have many interpretations. Definitions of this term differ according to the references made to: 1. demography of a country (population of various racial, religious, linguistic backgrounds); 2. the normative-ideological aspect (cultural rights of individuals); or 3. the political policy-level programs adopted to address ethnic diversity.

Multiculturalism had gained significance during the 1970s and 1980s in American society. It was the period when Latin Americans, African-Americans, and other ethnic groups explored their history.

Article 27 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that:

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities should not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

Advantages of Multiculturalism
1. Education
There have been changes in the syllabus of subjects, like history, to accommodate a more comprehensive and broader version of the past events. This can be seen as giving more exposure to children, wherein they learn about different perspectives on a given topic. Kids are educated about equality, and thus develop an attitude against racism.

2. Professional
Employees coming from various cultures can contribute with a wider range of perspectives on an assignment. A mix of cultural experiences helps in problem-solving, and can create a strong team. Having a diverse group of workers always enriches the office environment, improving the work culture.

3. Multinational Companies
These service industry giants, specifically the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) manufacturers, have benefited greatly from globalization. A diverse population employed by these companies in different countries helps them capture global markets, increase customer base across nations, and earn profits easily.

4. Skilled Migrant Labor
Multiethnic countries are home to majority of immigrants, a significant population of it being a highly educated skilled workforce. For example, students coming from Asia to the United States for higher education become part of the country's workforce. Besides their aptness for the job, a basic requirement, like knowledge of the English language, serves as an additional asset for both, the employer and the employee.

Disadvantages of Multiculturalism
1. Education
Children from ethnic minorities or immigrant families would take time in getting accustomed to a new environment. This may get reflected in their academic performance, when compared with that of the local children.

2. Professional
Although largely it is a benefit, managing a multicultural workforce can be very demanding. Prejudices of employees may work against the people belonging to a minority. Encouraging cooperation among all the coworkers, especially in collaborating as a team, can be a task.

3. Fear of Influence
Living in a multicultural society, even a cosmopolitan city for that matter, may inculcate a fear among individuals or minority groups, that they would lose their original ethnic identities or lifestyle. Being influenced by other cultures or foreign belief systems, at times create a protectionist tendency among the citizens.

4. Risk of Social Conflict
The possibility of a social conflict occurs due to differences in religious beliefs and practices, ethnic rituals, or certain ways of life that may cause a rift between two or more groups. However, in those countries that have adopted multiculturalism as an integrative policy, it has been noticed that conflicts arose mainly during financial crisis and due to lack of social programs.

Examples of Multiculturalism
There are many nations that can be called multicultural societies. Listed below are a few of them, pertaining to their characteristics as a multicultural nation.

Canada: This country officially adopted multiculturalism in 1971. It is based on the principle of ius solis or (the right of citizenship by birth). Further, the Multiculturalism Act of 1988 gives all members of Canadian society the freedom to preserve and share cultural heritages, and encourages protection and enhancement of their ancestral languages. It also asks all federal agencies to promote practices ensuring equal employment opportunities and advancement therein.

Australia: It sees itself as a country of immigrants. Multiculturalism, in this nation too is based on the right of citizenship by birth. Easy access to the naturalization process and citizenship for immigrants has been established long ago. The government believes multiculturalism to have strengthened the Australian society.

Sweden: Different from the above examples, Sweden operates by ius sanguinis or (right of blood), which extends the right of citizenship only if one or both parents are citizens of the country. However, the procedures of naturalization here are easier.

Other examples of multicultural societies include India, Britain, and the United States of America. Multicultural societies are also known as salad bowl or cultural mosaics.

Cultural awareness and sensitivity training is imparted to maintain a healthy environment in a multiethnic workforce. Also, cultural exchange programs across different countries help in bringing about several subtle changes in one's perspective towards other cultures.