Multiculturalism and diversity are concepts that are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. Multiculturalism means the support or the presence of multiple cultures and their coexistence within a larger society (Parekh, 2006). In this case, cultures could mean social groups, ethnic groups, races, and other emerging groups.
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On the other hand, diversity is a concept that is closely related to multiculturalism. As defined by Parekh (2006), diversity is the recognition and appreciation of the uniqueness that exists between different groups of people. Some of these differences include race, ethnicity, sex, gender, age, physical disability, political beliefs, religiosity, and socioeconomic status, among others. It is difficult to use any of the two terms without reference to the other term. These terms are often used interchangeably as their meanings are closely tied to one another. There are observable trends in multiculturalism and diversity on the global sphere and the workplace as well. This paper will discuss some of the issues related to diversity and multiculturalism while making reference to the employment sector.
Recent trends in diversity and multiculturalism show that societies are becoming more diverse. As can be seen in figure 1 below, for instance, the percentages of different races across the US has been changing considerably over the recent past. While the proportion of Hispanics in relation to the entire population declined between the beginning of the 19th century and only began to rise in the mid-20th century, a race like Asian has grown exponentially since the mid-20th century. On the other hand, it is expected that the Blacks have been declining throughout history while the Whites have been rising steadily up to the end of the 20th century. While the proportion of the Whites was 75.1% in 2000, this figure has reduced to 72.4% by 2010 (Humes, Jones & Ramirez, 2011). Within the same period, the proportion of Asian had grown from 3.6% to 4.8%, Hispanics had growth from 12.5% to 16.3%, and other minority races had grown from 5.5% to 6.2%. Surprisingly, it is expected that the Whites will continue to decline in the foreseeable future while the Hispanics and Asians will continue to rise at a steady pace (McDaniel, 1995). Presently, the US has the largest number of foreign-born individuals than ever before.
There have been changes in various elements of multiculturalism and diversity including religion, literacy, and income levels around the world. It is reported that religions that were initially rare in the US including Buddhism and Islam, among others, are becoming increasingly common in every part of the nation (Warf & Winsberg, 2008). Similarly, educational attainment has grown tremendously. While only the privileged few had access to education in the US barely a decade ago, efforts by the government and the community have seen a rise in the literacy levels in the US and the world as well. While literacy level was just 12% at the beginning of the 20th century, this proportion had risen to more than 85% as of 2014 (Roser & Ortiz-Ospina, 2015). Equally, the gap between those in higher socioeconomic classes and those in lower socioeconomic classes is declining at a steady pace. In the near future, chances are that many nations will continue to see higher levels of diversity and inclusivity in different areas. In fact, modern societies are accommodating different groups of people simultaneously without the occasional conflicts that were common in past centuries.
Diversity and multiculturalism are evident in different environments including the workplace and community level. On the business environment, for instance, businesses are expected to develop goods and services that meet the needs of all consumers. In this case, an organization whose services and goods appear to discriminate against a particular culture or group is likely to experience challenges such as criticism, negative publicity, and boycott. For instance, after a viral campaign that saw 1.5 million people sign a BoycottTarget petition, the company saw a decline of 6% in its sales for three consecutive quarters and was forced to close down 12 of its most affected outlets (Hurd, 2017). This is a clear indication that organizations have to embrace diversity and multiculturalism in their operations so as to succeed. On the same note, other organizations have since been programs that enable them to integrate all cultural groups within their workforce and in their product offering. For instance, decentralization of services and operations is primarily used by businesses as a strategy to diversify their operations, hire from local communities, and best meet the needs of the local communities regardless of their age, educational attainment, religion, gender, and ethnicity, among others. As such, these strategies are becoming more common at the business level and particularly among some of the largest multinational enterprises whose services span across diverse communities.
There are various factors that have contributed to the recent rise in multiculturalism. Some of these include globalization, immigration, technology, tourism, and the advancement of the transport sector. Moving from one region to another was difficult centuries ago due to limitations in the modes of transport and the speed. As such, it was common for people to live in small communities. The level of collaboration among these communities was low. Currently, governments often work together through the establishment of bilateral or multilateral agreements as well as the formation of regional blocks and global organizations such as the United Nations. As reported by Gomez and Larroa (2014), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to more movement of diverse communities across the three member states of the economic block. In this case, Americans can easily move across the Mexican and Canadian borders for business purposes while Canadians and Mexicans can easily find their way into the US. In addition, much of the multiculturalism in many nations happened in the second half of the 20th century due to the advancement of new modes of transport such as airplanes, electric trains, and fast vehicles. In fact, modern transportation sectors have also become cheaper. Currently, it is easier for an individual or a family to move from a nation in one continent to another as a result of favorable immigration policies and efficient modes of transport.
Diversity and multiculturalism are currently mandatory as per the laws of different regions. An individual who fails to respect the rights of another or discriminates a person on the basis of cultural differences is likely to violate one or multiple laws. In the workplace environment, the Equal Employment Opportunities Act (EEOA), Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA), Equal Pay Act (EPA), and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), among others, have been enacted so as to ensure that diverse groups are treated equally (Select Committee on Aging, 2017). In this case, discriminating against a person on the basis of disability, gender, age, and race, among others, is punishable by fine, imprisonment, or even a suspension of the operating license. In the education sector, for instance, there are various programs including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Head Start program that ensure that less privileged communities are supported by the government to ensure that they have equal chances as their privileged counterparts. In the healthcare sector, Medicare and Medicaid Services are primarily targeted on the less privileged groups based on age, disability status, and income status, among others. As such, governments and communities have learned to embrace diversity and to provide opportunities that promote the welfare of each cultural group.
In summary, multiculturalism and diversity are terms that focus on differences that exist among different social or cultural groups. Some of these differences include age, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, gender, and race, among others. Based on recent trends, the world is becoming more culturally diverse. With the advancement in technologies and the transport sector, it is now possible for people from different regions to interact with one another. Equally, globalization, immigration, and multilateral/bilateral agreements have seen a rise in the number of people moving across borders. With border policies becoming more accommodating, it will be possible to see future communities become more culturally diverse. At the same time, the rights that people are granted by the law and the protection of the groups that were once oppressed or less privileged could see communities become more inclusive.
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