Dr Christine Cross

Economic Crisis Polarises Attitudes to Immigrants in Ireland and Across Europe

Tuesday, 29th April 2014 Tags: University of Limerick, Kemmy Business School, UL Research, Dr Christine Cross,

A recent study from the Kemmy Business School provides new evidence of the extent of positive and negative attitudes towards immigrants across Europe. The study has found that aggregate attitudes to immigrants between 2002 and 2010, have become significantly more positive in countries such as Sweden and Denmark, but more negative in other countries, particularly Ireland, Spain and Greece.

Fluctuations in economic condition such as the rise in unemployment would appear to have an effect on attitudes towards immigrants. In Ireland, a significant decrease in positive attitudes towards immigrants and a significant increase in negative attitudes occurred between 2006 and 2010; a four-year period of unprecedented economic turbulence accompanied by high rates of unemployment. The dramatic economic collapse and a significant rise in unemployment in Ireland were associated with the sharpest fall in the proportion of respondents in favour of allowing new immigrants into the country.

There was also a reduction in positive attitudes to the economic and social impact of immigrants on the country. On both measures the decline in positive attitudes to immigrants on these issues was highest in Greece and Ireland, countries experiencing severe economic recessions in recent years. Negative sentiment to immigrants in Ireland increased, despite the ethnic and cultural similarity of the largest group of immigrants (mainly Polish) to the native population.

Dr, Christine Cross, one of the study’s authors explains “when we look at reasons for the differences in attitudes in European countries it may be that the severity of the economic crisis and rapid rise in unemployment in Ireland, Greece, and Spain provided a shock effect on attitudes to immigrants. In addition, it may be the case that these countries with a relatively short history of sizeable inward immigration have yet to cope with the adjustment required by downturns in the economic cycle in a multi-ethnic society.”

Dr, Tom Turner who co-authored the study, commented “perhaps the most intriguing finding from the study is the sizeable gap between the ratio of people in Sweden and Denmark willing to continue to allow immigrants into their country, compared to the low numbers in other European countries. Clearly other cultural, historical and political influences besides economic factors act to form and inform attitudes towards the impact of immigrants. Given the depth of the recession being currently experienced across Europe and the projected need for immigrant labour into the short-term future, attitudes are of significant concern for all those involved in migrant policy formulation.”