Immigration policies and attitudes toward highly skilled immigrants in Hong Kong
This project will disentangle the complex relationships between immigration policy and natives’ attitudes toward skilled foreign workers by a survey experiment (N=1,800) conducted in Hong Kong, where the government is eager to develop high-tech industry and adopts both restrictive and preferential policies toward highly skilled immigrants, particularly those from mainland China.
Do immigration policies shape the attitudes of native citizens toward highly skilled immigrants? This is an important question because policy makers, especially those in rapidly evolving economies, often struggle between policies that restrict highly skilled immigration and those that grant preferential treatment to foreign professionals. Past research on immigration attitudes has treated immigration policies as an outcome rather than a determinant of natives’ immigration attitudes. In particular, no research to date has distinguished between highly skilled immigrants admitted under restrictive and liberal immigration policies, even though this distinction is a critical component in the theoretical story about natives’ responses to immigrants. Guided by untested assumptions, many countries impose tight restrictions on highly skilled immigration, which in most cases undermines their ability to compete in the international labor market and runs against the needs of the economy. This project will disentangle the complex relationships between immigration policy and natives’ attitudes toward skilled foreign workers by a survey experiment (N=1,800) conducted in Hong Kong, where the government is eager to develop high-tech industry and adopts both restrictive and preferential policies toward highly skilled immigrants, particularly those from mainland China. Building on validated and pilot tested vignette experimental design, the survey will randomly assign respondents to review immigration schemes that impose different levels of restriction on labor market participation, cultural assimilation, and subsidies provision. Participants will then report their attitudes toward immigrants admitted under those schemes. To supplement the survey findings, we will conduct in-depth interviews with Hong Kong residents working in industries with different levels of protection against skilled immigration. Taken together, the findings will introduce a new dimension to the debate on the determinants of immigration attitudes, articulate the links between policies and public opinion, and provide much-needed evidence for evaluating the attitudinal effects of immigration policies in the midst of global competition for talent.
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