Framing difference positively, appreciating diversit

Why is difference so often framed negatively, and presented as dangerous and suspicious? Why are new methods and practices frequently opposed instead of welcomed with enthusiasm and seen to contribute and complement the old ones? Why are developing one’s knowledge and acquiring new skills literally “not nice” in the Finnish (linguistic) context, meaning at the “discomfort zone” (Finnish “epämukavuusalue”) instead of the English equivalent “learning zone”? Why do people often think that “us” is somehow better than “them”? What about migration – how could foreign citizens be considered more as an opportunity than as a threat?

Difference and diversity should be seen in a more positive light. There is extensive research on the favorable consequences of diversity and multiculturality in the workplace and in the society at large. For example, increased diversity has influenced positively the performance of companies by increasing productivity, driving innovation, boosting internationalization, building global networks, and promoting learning through access to new knowledge and technologies. Foreign citizens, migrants, have linguistic and socio-cultural skills as well as understanding of many cultures – and thus abilities to smoothly co-operate and build trust in transnational contexts. (Li, 2020). Nevertheless, diversity as such is not enough to create desirable outcomes if not implemented holistically and based on values. The management and the authorities should respect and recognize the important contribution and special skills of their diverse employees and residents, and thus build feeling of belonging, being included. (Mor Barak, 2015). The concept of inclusion is often linked with diversity to describe how organizations, societies and their members connect and interact with people representing all types of differences (Deane & Ferdman, 2014). Smooth and successful integration is crucial both for the migrants and the receiving societies.

Studying in the international Master’s Programme in Intercultural Encounters has been extremely valuable, eye-opening and pleasant experience. Being surrounded by such amazing fellow students, with diverse backgrounds from different parts of the world, has enabled countless inspiring discussions in the classroom (before the pandemic) and enriching group case studies. Without this unique intercultural context, we would have missed an integral part of the purpose of our studies.

Cultures and subcultures, in-groups and out-groups, are formed everywhere, and thus intercultural encounters, synergies, and ideological clashes may well happen between regional communities, parents and their children, different socio-economical classes, majority-minority groups, political parties, religious affiliations, hobby-related circles and even between academic disciplines. In this light, if diversity is to be found anywhere and all of us construct unique identities, also migration could be seen more as an opportunity to learn something new than as a threat to protect oneself against.

This blog post wanted to focus on the positive aspects of diversity as well as on the possibilities enabled by migration. While it is evident that challenges do exist on many levels, and several issues could still be improved, it is important to start from attitudes and foster tolerance, respect, equality, and empathy.


Deane, B., & Ferdman, B. (2014). Diversity at work : the practice of inclusion. Jossey-Bass.

Li, H. (2020). How to Retain Global Talent? Economic and Social Integration of Chinese Students in Finland. Sustainability, 12(4161), 1-19. DOI: 10.3390/su12104161

Mor Barak, M. E. (2015). Inclusion is the Key to Diversity Management, but What is Inclusion? Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 39(2), 83–88. DOI: 10.1080/23303131.2015.1035599

Author is a student at the University of Helsinki


Is population decline opening the doors for new immigration policies in Japan

When discussing immigration policies, Japan is known for its rather apprehensive policies in the acceptance of immigrants other than high skilled labourers, and even for those the percentage in comparison to the local “homogenous” population, is low. It is also known that from the year 2008 Japan has had an increase in the number of citizens over the age of 65, or the so-called ageing population increase, that overpasses the birth-rate metrics of the country. Due to the uncertainty of how these population changes will affect or even collapse the security social system and pensions, Japan has seen an increase in the discussions of immigration policies and the acceptance of foreigners as a possible proxy to delay the imminent possible threat to their economy.

It is known that Japan has about 2% of registered foreigners as of 2017, and of that percentage, most of the foreign citizens come from other Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Vietnam. With the hosting of the Olympics, Japan increased in great numbers the amount of construction workers in the country. Unfortunately, due to absent policies and organizations that can satisfy decent working condition, the rise of low skilled construction workers has led to numerous cases of overworking related deaths.

Other initiatives have opened the path for Nikkei to enter Japan, but unfortunately, this limits greatly the possibilities for other communities to be part of the working force. Recent policy changes like the 2010 enactment of a refugee program initiative for third-country resettlements with the UN and the surge of work visas for foreign nurses and caretakers in accordance with EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement, 2007) has sparked a debate between policymakers and the public, on whether Japan should enable an open-door immigration policy.

New systems for medium-skilled workers are facilitating migration to Japan, in the form of working visas, traineeships and accreditation for workers who graduated from Japanese Universities who also possess language skills, but more importantly is the discussion surrounding not only a more accepting Japan in terms of bureaucratic procedures but also a social shift in the idea that “Japan is homogenous and poses one culture and one language.” This cultural shift may be the trigger to open the door for new immigration policies in the future.

The debates surrounding the social consequences of an influx of foreign workers often touch upon topics of belonging and meaning of Japan, Japaneseness and common rhetoric of homogenous Japan. I believe that this last aspect of homogeneity is an important piece in the puzzle for the discussions surrounding immigration, as Japan has never been a fully homogenous society but one with oppressed minorities as the native (アィヌ) Ainu in Hokkaido and the (琉球民族) Ryūkyū minzoku in Okinawa. The extensive history that precedes the current inhabitants of Japan should be a point of convergence to discuss immigration policies and their relationship with other policies that deal with cultural diversity, safety, and integration.

Posted on behalf of the euthor who is a student at the University of Helsinki

Cross-border commuting to Luxembour

Short background on Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a small country with a population of 626 100 of which 47,4% are foreigners. 88% of these foreigners are European, the largest foreign populations coming from Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium and Germany. Luxembourg is a wealthy country with a minimum wage of (qualified) 2570euros/month and a GDP per capita of EUR 92,600 (Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg, 2020; EACEA, 2020; STATEC, 2020).

Cross-border commuting

Workers from France, Belgium and Germany come to work in Luxembourg, most of them commute more than 40 minutes each way to work. These border workers account to 45% of salaried employments in Luxembourg (Chambre de Commerce, 2019). This area is called the ‘Greater Region’ and these governments have joint agreements where the border workers pay taxes in Luxembourg, benefit from higher income and enjoy Luxembourgish benefits (Finck, 2015). This kind of cross-border movement can be considered spatial integration as the individual’s workplace is in a different country to their place of residence, but it is also social integration as they have hobbies, social networks and attitudes toward the visiting country. Further it is also economic migration, where workers seek better employment opportunities elsewhere (Drevon, Gerber, Klein, & Enaux, 2018; Fromentin, 2021). One of the reasons there is such a phenomenon is due to the high housing prices in Luxembourg (Clevers, Mathä, Pulina, Strásky, Woloszko, & Ziegelmeyer, 2020).

My own experience

Having been born and raised in Luxembourg, and later on raised in Belgium, my family was also crossing the border daily to work in Luxembourg and my siblings and I for school. For nine years we used to live just by the border of Luxembourg, my siblings and I have always attended the same school in Luxembourg irrespective of where we lived and my parents always worked in Luxembourg. The experiences of my family align with the findings of Drevon et al., as our family often did a trip of home-work/school-home. Drevon et al. found that 54% of cross-border workers did a trip of home-work/school-home. Further my family would fall under the ‘Integrated’ cross-border worker of Drevon et al.’s study. These families were living close to the border, performed most of their activities like shopping, hobbies in Luxembourg and a few activates in their country of residence. Oftentimes, we did activities in Luxembourg during the weekends such as going shopping, swimming or meeting up with friends. Our house was in Belgium, but our friends, hobbies, activities were in Luxembourg and we spent more time in Luxembourg than Belgium, and that’s why I felt very attached to Luxembourg, and my siblings felt the same way. When we moved back to Luxembourg, life got easier as commuting time shortened and the stress of traffic and planning were practically diminished. It felt like we were moving back home. Thus, I did not feel integrated into Belgium, I was very much attached to Luxembourg and saw that as my home.

Author is a student at the University of helsinki


Chambre de Commerce Luxembourg. (2019).

Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg. (2020)., G.,

Mathä, T. Y., Pulina, G., Stráský, J., Woloszko, N., & Ziegelmeyer, M. (2020). Housing and inequality: The case of Luxembourg and its cross-border workers. OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 1608, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Drevon, G., Gerber, P., Klein, O., & Enaux, C. (2018). Measuring functional integration by identifying the trip chains and the profiles of cross-border workers: Empirical evidences from Luxembourg. Journal of Borderlands Studies, 33(4), 549 568, doi: 10.1080/08865655.2016.1257362

EACEA. (2020).

Finck, M. (2015). Towards an Ever Closer Union Between Residents and Citizens? European Constitutional Law Review, 11(1), 78–98.

Fromentin, V. (2021) Cross-border workers in the Greater Region of Luxembourg and financial instability: a non-linear approach. Applied Economics, doi: 10.1080/00036846.2021.1877251

STATEC. (2020).