Labour Competition = Negative Attitudes towards Foreigners

A basic premise in the work on attitudes towards foreigners/immigrants is that negative attitudes are a reflection of unwanted labour force competition. Often this is simplified to individuals with lower levels of education showing negative attitudes towards foreigners/immigrants. Things aren’t that simple, though: a plumber will not directly compete with a bricklayer.

Marco Pecoraro and I have had a closer look and examined the occupational concentration of foreigners: the share of foreigners in a particular occupation. This way we give full consideration to the segmented nature of the labour market, and capture the share of foreigners/immigrants relevant for labour force competition.

There is a negative association between the share of foreigners in one’s occupation and positive attitudes to equal opportunities for foreigners. At the same time, there is a positive association between the share of recently arrived foreigners and positives attitudes to equal opportunities. This suggests that workers are at the same time wary of competition with foreigners and welcome their contribution to overcome labour shortages. Labour force competition does appear to affect attitudes, but in a nuanced way.

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