Negative attitudes towards labour immigration

Independent opinion poll and political and social survey specialists Vilmorus conducted a study in 2010 exploring the attitudes of Lithuanian residents towards labour immigration. The survey’s findings revealed rather negative attitudes. Roughly 58% of the respondents did not support labour immigration, and among the main reasons given were concerns that cheap immigrant labour would increase competition in the labour market and worsen working conditions.

Survey aims and methodology

The independent Market and Opinion Research Centre (Vilmorus), conducts regular monthly polls based on multistage random samples, taken from 100 sampling points all over Lithuania, and consisting of 1,000 respondents from the adult population who are selected to form a representative model of the Lithuanian population. In January 2010, Vilmorus set out specifically to explore the attitudes of Lithuanian residents towards labour immigration, with particular attention paid to perceived benefits and threats. The survey was carried out at the request of the International Organization for Migration Vilnius Office (TMO) and the Lithuanian National Information Centre of the European Migration Network (EMT).

The key method used was a representative polling of the Lithuanian population conducted in all counties of Lithuania, pro rata to the number of urban and rural residents. A total of 1,004 individuals aged 18 and older were polled in 21 cities/towns and 52 rural areas.

Main findings

Attitudes towards labour immigration

According to the survey, the majority of the respondents (57.8%) gave negative appraisal to the immigration phenomenon in Lithuania. Positive attitudes towards labour immigrants to Lithuania were expressed by around one fifth of the respondents (18.8%) (see figure).

Respondents’ answer to the question ‘Do you think immigration to Lithuania is a positive or negative phenomenon?’ (%)

Figure: Respondents’ answer to the question ‘Do you think immigration to Lithuania is a positive or negative phenomenon?’ (%)

Source: Sipavičienė et al, 2010

Negative attitudes were somewhat more prevalent in men than in women: 62.5% of men and 53.8% of women said they found immigration to Lithuania to be a negative phenomenon. Analysis of the data by different age groups demonstrated that younger people were much more positive about immigration compared to those in older age groups. While immigration to Lithuania was judged negatively by roughly two fifths (41%) of the respondents under 29, their opinion was shared by 66.7% of the representatives in the 60–69 age group. Likewise, it should be noted that EU immigrants were viewed considerably more favourably compared to immigrants from third countries: more than half of the respondents (54.6%) judged immigration from the EU positively, against 21.9% who saw immigration from third countries as a positive phenomenon.

Perceived benefits and threats

The survey found that the absolute majority of the respondents who were negative about labour immigration to Lithuania gave their main reasons as fear of competition in the labour market and the worsening of working conditions in Lithuania (see Table 1). Asked specifically about non-EU immigrants, about one tenth of the respondents (10.6%) said their negative view of such immigration came from their concerns about differences in culture and a possible unwillingness of non-EU immigrants to integrate into Lithuanian society.

Table 1: Respondents’ reasons for their negative attitudes towards labour immigration to Lithuania (%)
  From EU From non-EU
Competition, worsening of working conditions

84.7

72.5

Different culture, unwillingness to integrate

4.0

10.6

Making use of Lithuania, looking for privileges

3.6

4.1

Increase in crime, shadow economy

1.9

6.3

No tradition of high-quality or intensive work; lack of skills

0.7

5.2

Higher incidence of diseases

-

0.4

Uncertain/no response

6.1

6.6

Note: The question was answered only by respondents who were negative about immigration; more than one answer was possible.

Source: Sipavičienė et al, 2010

Respondents who were positive about immigration usually mentioned the professional skills and expertise of immigrants, and their economic benefits for Lithuania as positive features of immigration. Roughly one in five respondents indicated that immigration to Lithuania was a result of free movement (‘if we go, they may come as well’) (see Table 2).

Table 2: Respondents’ reasons for their positive attitudes towards labour immigration to Lithuania (%)
  From EU From non-EU countries
High skills/professional expertise

47.8

28.0

Economic benefits

22.1

28.0

Better relationships, cultural diversity

11.4

14.0

Free movement (‘if we go, they may come as well’)

18.2

14.0

Demographic benefits/increase in birth rates

0.9

2.8

Uncertain/no response

9.4

18.7

Note: The question was answered only by the respondents who were positive about immigration; more than one answer was possible.

Source: Sipavičienė et al, 2010

Reference

Sipavičienė, A., Gaidys, V., Jeršovas, M. (2010), Lietuvos gyventojų požiūris į imigraciją ir darbo imigrantus (2.2Mb PDF) [Lithuanian residents’ attitudes towards immigration and labour immigrants], TMO, Vilnius.

Rasa Zabarauskaite, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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