Irish anti-immigrant attitudes growing, report shows

20 per cent oppose immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds, ESRI report shows

Irish attitudes to immigration have worsened since the recession, with almost 20 per cent of people saying they are against any immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds coming in, according to a new report.

The report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), published today, shows that between 2002 and 2010 the number of people who are opposed to immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds coming into the country more than trebled, from 6 per cent to almost 20 per cent.

The recession has also affected immigrants more than Irish nationals, with higher rates of unemployment and poverty among the non-Irish population.

The study, carried out on a sample of 2,000 people, shows that Irish views on the effect of immigration on the economy are more negative than those in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. Only the UK scores worse than Ireland on attitudes to the impact of immigrants on cultural life.

Rapid growth
"The evidence seems to suggest that rapid growth in the immigrant population, followed by economic recession, has resulted in increased concerns about, and resistance to, immigration in Ireland," said Dr Frances McGinnity, author of the report. However she said integration of immigrants was evident, with 34,500 people from outside the EU given citizenship between 2005 and 2011.


Over 20 per cent of Irish people said they were against immigrants from poor countries outside Europe coming in – an increase from 6 per cent in 2002 – while 41 per cent said they would allow some in. Some 15 per cent were against immigrants from the same ethnic background coming – up from 4 per cent in 2002.

Irish people with university degrees have a more positive attitude to immigrants, as do those under 45.

More than half of respondents surveyed in 2010 said Ireland was a worse place to live because of immigrants. In previous surveys, between 2002 and 2008, most people said Ireland was a better place because of immigrants. “Interestingly, this coincides with the period when the proportion of immigrants was rising rapidly, and indicates that there was not, at least initially, a negative response to this,” says the report.

The study highlights Ireland's high foreign-born population at 17 per cent, compared with other high income countries in the OECD. Despite the recession, the overall number of immigrants has declined only slightly. While 172,000 immigrants left Ireland between 2008 and 2012, 140,000 came in. Over 136,000 Irish people left the country between 2008 and 2012, while 81,100 came in.

Effect of economic crisis
Immigrants here are more likely to be unemployed than Irish people. In 2012 the unemployment rate for Irish nationals was 14.7 per cent, and 18.5 per cent for non-nationals.

“It is clear that the economic crisis has affected immigrants in the labour market more severely,” says the report.

Youth unemployment was worse among Irish nationals, at 30 per cent, compared to 27.2 per cent among non-nationals.

UK nationals living in Ireland experience the second highest unemployment rate of 24 per cent , according to the study.

Only Africans had a higher unemployment rate of 27.1 per cent in 2012 while people from the original EU member states, such as France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries have an unemployment rate of just 9.9 per cent. People from the mainly central and east European states which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have an unemployment rate of 18.4 per cent. The report says the trend among UK nationals “merits further research”.

The report also says there is a “substantial gap” between the unemployment rate for Irish women (10.5 per cent) and non-Irish females (15.3 per cent). The unemployment rate among Irish men was 18.1 per cent, compared to 21.1 per cent for non-Irish men.

Black people are almost four times more likely than white Irish people to report experiencing discrimination in shops, pubs, housing and transport.

Black Africans, Europeans from an ethnic minority background and people from the new central and eastern EU states fared worse than other groups in getting a job. “The study also found that migrants who arrived in Ireland during the recession (ie. in or after 2008) were found to be more likely to report experiencing discrimination when looking for work than those who had arrived during the boom,” it adds.

Across the EU, 56 per cent of respondents said they believed there was widespread discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin; 37 per cent felt such discrimination was rare. In Ireland, 35 per cent said there was widespread discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin; 51 per cent felt such discrimination was rare.

Immigrant groups were better educated than the Irish population, with all immigrants more likely to have third level education compared with Irish nationals. “In most OECD countries the reverse is true: immigrants are less likely to hold tertiary degrees than natives,” says the report.