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Jakarta Post

EDITORIAL: Xenophobic millennials


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, November 6, 2017   /   08:06 am
EDITORIAL: Xenophobic millennials 77.7 percent of millennials viewed negatively the impact of foreign workers on the economy, believing that foreigners take away jobs from the local population. (Shutterstock/File)

Growing up with unlimited access to information through the internet, millennials the world over should care less about nationalism and patriotism than their predecessors of Generation X or the baby boomers. According to Pew Research, only about one in three millennials in the United States describe themselves as “a patriotic person,” as 35 percent say this is a “perfect” description. The figure for Gen Xers is 64 percent and for Boomers 75 percent. It is also a well-known fact that millennials tend to take a globalist approach to world affairs and that they like to consider themselves to be citizens of the world.

A survey conducted by Jakarta-based think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), meanwhile, paints a different picture of millennials in this country. The survey found that millennials in Indonesia, the section of the population between 17 and 29 years of age, show a strong xenophobic tendency. The survey found that 77.7 percent of millennials viewed negatively the impact of foreign workers on the economy, believing that foreigners take away jobs from the local population.

The finding is troubling not only because Indonesia has a lower intake of foreign workers than Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, but also because such a negative perception comes up while the country is enjoying healthy economic growth. What would the millennials do if the country’s economy suddenly took a turn for the worse?

Millennials holding a negative view toward foreign workers is also troubling because a quick search on the internet could show them that the myth of foreign workers stealing jobs from locals has long been debunked. (The economic benefits of immigration could be the most settled fact in economics, and this explains why Angela Merkel insisted on allowing hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Germany in the past few years).

But if some of these young people believe (based on information they get from the internet) that the earth is flat or that the moon landing was faked, they ultimately could subscribe to any idea, however dumb it may be. We have a problem when these ideas that millennials subscribe to can have far-reaching consequences.

A negative attitude toward foreign workers today could turn into full-blown racism in five years if these millennials are continually exposed to ideas and thoughts that promote suspicion toward people of different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Today, millennials as a demographic group play a significant role in determining the outcome of an election, and we should be more concerned now that we know their political preference.

The rise of nationalist sentiment in many parts of the world, from Brexit and the election of Trump to the victory of Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz (the first millennial to become a country leader), should teach us the lesson that sometimes voters, millennials included, can take us in a direction we thought impossible a few years back. With millennials now ready to take over the world, it is time for us to be worried about the future.