Tolerance in crisis?

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Immigration became a heated subject of debate during the European Parliament elections in May 2014. Economists are now asking whether anti-immigrant sentiment can be attributed to fiscal, as well as social, factors.

Though OECD work suggests that immigrants are a net benefit to their host countries (See “The impact of immigrants: It’s not what you think”, OECD Observer No 295, Q2 2013), overall, OECD member countries became slightly less tolerant of immigrants during the 2007-12 recession, with sharp declines experienced in countries hardest hit by the downturn.

Take Greece. Prior to the crisis, approximately 67% of Greeks believed that their local community was a good place to live for immigrants. By 2012, this figure dropped by a staggering 26 percentage points. In Mexico, a 68% positive perception of tolerance dropped by 15 percentage points. But in Slovenia and Austria tolerance levels bloomed, despite fiscal woes. Also notable, the UK experienced a small 2 percentage point increase in tolerance, despite growing political tensions over the role of the EU in regulating migration flows.

Across emerging economies, variation among tolerance levels was more pronounced. Whereas India, Russia and South Africa all experienced marked declines, China recorded the largest positive shift among all 41 OECD and non-member countries surveyed, with an increase of 16.5 percentage points in the number of Chinese citizens who believed that their community was a good place for immigrants to settle down.


© OECD Observer No 299, Q2 2014

Economic data

GDP growth: -9.8% Q2/Q1 2020 2020
Consumer price inflation: 1.3% Sep 2020 annual
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Unemployment: 7.3% Sep 2020
Last update: 10 Nov 2020

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