Why Is a Multicultural Oxford a Better Oxford?
If anyone doubts the benefits of migrant groups upon Oxford’s own diverse culture, then look at the ten best restaurants in Oxford. Perhaps a bit of a cliché, but one of the first things new immigrant groups seem to do is establish eating places selling the food of their own country and culture – albeit made a little more acceptable to local taste. So, in Oxford we have among the top ten, according to Tripadvisor: Caribbean, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, Thai, American, Eastern European and French; and the few British places in the list can probably serve a pretty good curry or pasta carbonara! The food we choose to eat demonstrates just how culturally diverse Britain, and Oxford are.
Believe it or not, but almost 30% of Oxford’s population was not born in the UK – and that number does not reflect the foreign students studying at the university. According to the 2011 census, 28% of Oxford’s residents were foreign born, a total of 43,000 people. 14,320 were from the EU, with the leaders of that group being Polish. There’s 6,210 from the Indian sub-continent and 3,500 from North America. Even though many of these people, some 6,800, had arrived in the past 15 months all bring with them some elements of their home culture and way of life and our city is all the better for it!
The Numbers Add Up!
A criticism of a relatively open immigration policy is that immigrants are a financial burden upon their chosen new home but the facts do not bear this out UK Studies show that the overall effect of migration upon the economy is very small, around 1% of GDP and that, although there are various ways of estimating the costs and benefits of migrants upon the economy, on the whole, these various studies with their various methodologies show that migrants tend to boost the national and local economies. Simply put, we are all financially better off as a result of having migrants in a multicultural society.
Recent immigrants to Oxford tend to be younger and more highly skilled than the existing population. They often do work for which it is hard to find local applicants – how many Polish people are working in care homes and hospitals around the city and county? And, because of their age, recent migrants are less likely to need support from the NHS or social services.
Billions from Business
Businesses in Oxford benefit from migration. Because of the world-renowned university Oxford has a history of innovative new businesses springing up from the brightest minds in the world, attracted to Oxford for the chance to study and work with the best of their peers. 45% of companies based upon Oxford University intellectual property have foreign founders or co-founders. Such companies are worth up to £600,000 to the local and national economy every year! Of course, not all businesses are at the forefront of technology, there’s plenty of work for the plumbers, joiners and bricklayers who import their skills from across Europe. The people of Oxford all benefit from the boost to the economy that migrants bring with them.
Cross-Cultural Shopping Possibilities
There’s a fair chance that many of us have seen new shops spring up such as selling bread and Polski Sklep Żubr other food items familiar to Polish and other Eastern European people. Other Britons can find much that is new, interesting, and good in such shops. Well worth a try are the malted dark breads, similar to, but not as sweet as the old-fashioned Malt Loaf from Soreen.
Asian food markets now exist, selling all kinds of Asian provender, including frozen convenience foods.The Oriental Food Mart on West Saint Helen Street is worthy of mention. Kimchi lovers might want to check out the Jingjing Oriental Food Store on Cowley Road and Lung Wah Chong in the city centre.These new shopping opportunities serve not only their own ethnic customer base but expand the range of food choices for everybody, no matter where we come from.
Entertainment and Culture
Over the years Oxfordians have become fortunate to be able to share in events that reflect the entertainment choices of recent arrivals. For example, nine years ago the Oxford Mela event started. This community-based event features Bollywood, world music, sporting competitions and great food. Organised by the Hindu community of the city, the Mela takes place on the 17th June at the Leys Pools and Leisure centre.
In July, there’s the Cowley Road Carnival, attended, last year by 50,000 people with a procession of 650 people! The first carnival, back on 2001 had an attendance of just 5,000! Now a truly multicultural and very colourful event this is a great way to spend a summer day!
Oxford can be proud of its multicultural heritage. Migration always brings with it challenges and difficulties but by growing through them, accepting some change while holding on to the best of before strengthens the city and surrounding areas.
Now, time for me to go and heat up some Polish pierogis for my lunch, washed down with a mug of hot Indian tea.