In his presentation ‘Understanding Diversity and Migration Trends’ at the ECMA Congress in Bucharest, Romania, (September 10-11), Prof Aaqil Ahmed, head of religion and ethics, at the BBC, said migration doesn’t just affect societies but has a knock-on effect on businesses as well.
Lack of religious & cultural literacy
“The biggest issue is the lack of knowledge surrounding religion, what it means to people and what impact it has on societies around us,” he said.
“We live in a post-Christian Europe where church tendencies are going down.
"A drift into secularization its nothing new, the problem is the rest of the world hasn’t drifted into secularization, and the rest of the world is living amongst us now and hasn’t fully integrated.
“The issue is there is a concern that economic migrants are too different and causing a problem to social cohesion.”
According to Ahmed, there is a presumption that there is one kind of Christianity, which is not true, and a lack of religious and cultural literacy causes misunderstanding, and subconsciously a lack of religious literacy can lead to dangerous conclusions.
“It doesn’t apply to everybody, but for those people who have a complete lack of understanding can create a climate of fear, and potentially a split between ‘us’ and ‘them’,” he added.
Ahmed explained that what we are experiencing in Europe now is separate to normal migration, for example there are two real reasons why people come to the UK and other countries in Europe, which is to study or to find work.
“It is different to what we are seeing now with people flooding in from Syria. A migrant is someone who changes their country or place of usual residence,” he added.
Migrants have the potential to be significant consumers
“These migrants have the potential to be significant consumers and employees in the future. It gives us something to think about what sphere we operate in.
“These new particular groups are consumers and we need to understand what they want. We need to think about how they are going to act as consumers. They may want products from home, or think differently about where their things come from.
“Certain groups are not assimilating in the same way previous groups did and may not take on the consumer habits of those countries they choose to live in.
“It’s very different today because people don’t need to assimilate. The way they connect is done digitally and that will change everything. It will continue to affect businesses across Europe because the numbers are growing and opinions regarding tastes and needs will change.
“As the economy continues to grow we will always need the best people to work in our manufacturing sites and other companies and we need to plan for this change.”
As an example, Ahmed named the second largest ethic groups in particular countries; Denmark (Turkish); Iceland (Polish); UK (Indian) and Spain (Romanian).
He said the figures show the growing change in pace of nationalities in each country.
“Companies need to think about what migration means for those people and the countries they are settling in to. No one immigrant group comes with the same skills base and as they mature they do things differently and have different attitudes towards culture,” he added.
Young, diverse audiences are early adopters of new technology
“Indian and Chinese groups have done well in terms of education. But people from Bangladesh haven’t done as well in the education system. We need to understand migration patterns and look at their skillset and cultural understandings. “
Ahmed said young, diverse audiences are early adopters of new technology and social media can relate to them better, and using tools such as Periscope, Twitter, and Instagram, may allow us to have a positive conservation with a hard to reach group, such as Hindus and Sikhs.
“These consumers are out there and they are growing in numbers and we need to get to them,” he said.
“If we have to plan for this from a business point of view we have to know what is their cultural background and we need to think about these people as consumers and how can we make inroads into how we serve them.
“We need to fill in the knowledge gaps we have as a society because of our collective religious literacy and particular communities that may be difficult to reach rather than everybody else. These diverse groups are often the most hard to reach.”