Skip to content

Do only democracies have anti-immigrant movements?

This great picture on changing share of foreign-born residents in the NYT today (showing countries with largest increase):

You can see why anti-immigration sentiment is a big deal in the European countries shown and in the US. (This is a descriptive statement, I myself hate xenophobia.)

But what about the countries at the top of the graph? Let’s exclude the special and controversial case of Israel from all the following statements.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have not heard of prominent anti-immigration movements  in any of these countries.

Is that because these are non-democracies in which immigrants can be treated as second-class citizens with little or no rights?

Again, this is just descriptive speculation — I would certainly NOT recommend that approach to the democracies.  But it does show the complicated political economy you get when you mix xenophobia, democracy, equality before the law, and immigration.

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Democracy and freedom, In the news, Migration, Political economy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

8 Comments

  1. Alvin wrote:
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  2. Adam wrote:

    Yes, Bill, they’re basically a slave class. Not really what we want.

    Posted June 27, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  3. Justin Kraus wrote:

    A lot of them, particularly Jordan, are special cases. The huge influx to Jordan is mostly Iraqis, many of whom were/are not poor (relatively speaking). Housing prices went up in Jordan significantly in part due to this influx and while I was living there at least there was a lot of grumbling from local Jordanians. On the other hand the Jordanians also understood the reasons why the Iraqis were coming in, the American invasion, and that blunted their criticism some.
    Interesting graph but knowing whats going on in these countries individually is really important in this case.

    Posted June 27, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  4. @Adam: If “we” means migrants, it is what “we” want, because the chances for “us” to migrate to those places are vastly oversubscribed. On the other hand, if “we” means what you and I want for other people, it might not be what “we” want, but imposing our will on others is highly problematic.

    Posted June 27, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  5. Chris Prottas wrote:

    Lant Prichett has written a lot on this (“Let Their People Come”). Those Middle Eastern countries have a very open policy because the migrant workers are just that, workers, with no hope of political rights. There is no fear that the state will have to pay for the workers so its a less political issue (though of course, not apolitical). It suggests we might be able to build a coalition in the US to allow for greater labor mobility if we focused on temporary work permits.

    Posted June 27, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  6. Matthew Stinson wrote:

    Upon inspection, the idea that non-democracies are more friendly to immigrants doesn’t really hold up.

    In Middle Eastern non-democracies, as Chris Prottas notes, immigrants are generally in an unstable situation. In oil-rich states they form the core of the underclass and unlike the US, with a large white and black underclass, they don’t have a large underclass to compete with them. But these states have shown themselves willing to expel immigrant populations en masse and replace them with a completely new group of immigrants, such as Saudi Arabia expelling Palestinian migrants and replacing them with, among others, Filipinos after the first Gulf War. Other states have a more bloody history in dealing with Palestinian refugee/migrant populations. In Jordan in the 1970s and Syria in the 1980s, the surge in political power among Palestinians eventually led to massacres of thousands of civilians.

    Things aren’t much better in Asia. Chinese immigrants were scapegoated and horrifically lynched by Indonesian mobs during the Asian financial crisis, and even in democratic Indonesia tension remains between Indonesians and non-Indonesians. Singapore, while comparatively pacific, has already reached its saturation point, and won’t accept immigrants that change the character of Singaporean nationhood. But most Asian countries — non-democracies and democracies alike — just don’t want any immigrants at all. If they do, it’s because, like their Middle Eastern counterparts, they want a segregated underclass to do their dirty work.

    Posted June 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  7. Ronan L wrote:

    Maybe it’s the political rights of citizens generally that should be looked at. The more capacity a citizenry have for speaking up for their own interests, the more likely it is that whatever proportion of them are against immigration can make that known.

    (At which point, people can sub in any number of the stories they like about popular reactions to migration, e.g. unskilled labour in the OECD countries being more anti-immigration being they’ve more to lose…)

    That said, I would challenge your maintained hypothesis that anti-immigration feeling is ubiquitous in the countries you’ve highlighted. To take the top two:
    – Switzerland certainly has its issues, but there is very little problem there with the large chunks of its migrant population that “blend in well”, e.g. French, German, Italian.
    – I’m not aware of any popular anti-immigration movement in Ireland. None of the political parties mentions it. Indeed, anti-immigration rhetoric is regarded typically as tabboo given Ireland’s emigration experience.

    I’m a big fan of graphs and their ability to distill key facts, but in this instance I would have to question its worth. Then again, I’ve had my issues with NYT graphics in the past.

    Posted June 28, 2010 at 3:51 am | Permalink
  8. Adam wrote:

    @Michael – Clearly these jobs are better than staying at home, otherwise they wouldn’t have made the choice; there’s no ‘imposing’ of anything going on. But it doesn’t mean that virtual slavery is a choice we should aspire for people to have to make:

    http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1052&Itemid=32

    Posted June 28, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Easterly, Nicole Skibola, The Right Respect, RandallJones , victor miclovich and others. victor miclovich said: RT @bill_easterly: Do only democracies have anti-immigrant movements? http://bit.ly/bUsvcJ […]

  2. […] do the countries with the highest levels of immigration not have an anti-immigrant backlash? William Easterly offers some incorrect […]

  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

  • Recent Comments

  • Archives