(Image: Unsplash/Timo Wielink)

Racism in Australia may not always make the news headlines, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s difficult for research bodies to co-ordinate and rank which country exhibits the most racism in the world, due to the fact that racism isn’t an easy concept to quantify, and because the obvious signs and symptoms of racism are a subjective experience for many. 

There are two studies that took a global perspective in trying to decipher tolerance levels on a global scale.

Racism in Australia | 2013 Study

A 2013 study by Swedish economists Niclas Berggen and Therese Nilsson compared the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index scores of 65 countries. The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index examines government size, security and legal structures. It also looks at financial stability, international trade, credit regulation, labour and business. 

Berggen and Nilsson’s mission was to see if there was a correlation between economic freedom and levels of tolerance towards people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. The economists cross-examined economic freedom scores with data from the World Values Survey, which asked people from more than 80 countries to identify the kinds of people they did not want as neighbours. One of the answers on the multiple-choice list was “people of a different race”. The economists reasoned that those who said they did not want to live beside people of a different race were likely to be less tolerant and more racist.

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The countries marked in red were more likely to showcase racism than those marked in blue. Source: Washington Post

Less obvious were the results that showed there is a relatively high correlation between economic freedom and tolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community, but there is less tolerance towards people of colour. 

The economists summarised: 

“We do not consider it strange that tolerance towards LGBTQ+ persons is most strongly related to economic freedom, due to the different character of being a LGBTQ+ person and a person of a different race. For example, LGBTQ+ persons are to a large extent present in families and in the workplace. This may very well suggest to people that LGBTQ+ persons are well integrated and not a threat under a liberalized economic regime. People of another race, on the other hand, may to a larger degree be perceived as being different, less integrated and possibly a social and economic burden to society, with less tolerance emerging as a result.”

In the map shown above, Australia is marked as a tolerant country. However, there are drawbacks to the study — namely, it can be argued that some respondents are unlikely to be honest in their responses to the neighbour question. Secondly, the World Values Survey data has been collected over years, as opposed to one isolated study. So, unless every respondent’s mental schemas towards people of colour have remained static, this is not a fully accurate portrait of global racism. 

Nonetheless, Australia ranks low in this study for racism, although there are clear signs to show that racism in Australia is a problem.  

Racism in Australia | A 2015 Study

A 2015 study published by Insider Monkey also sought to rank countries from most to least racist and produced a list of the 25 most racist countries in the world. 

The researchers of this study took findings from the economists’ 2013 study and asked another question in addition to, “Would you like having people from another race as neighbours?” 

The second question by these researchers was more direct: “How frequently does racist behaviour occur in your neighbourhood?”

The findings cover responses from more than 85,000 people in 61 countries.

According to this study, the 25 most racist countries include: 

#Country% Who don’t want neighbours of another race% of people who witnessed racist behaviour
9South Africa19.661.8
10South Korea29.636.5
19Hong Kong18.840.4

Source: Business Tech

And before you ask, I’m wondering why the United States isn’t on the list too.

Racism in Australia | A 2018 Survey

Lastly, a 2018 survey commissioned by SBS in conjunction with Western Sydney University asked 6,000 respondents about racism in Australia. 

Here’s what they found: 

  1. Approximately 31% of respondents claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Muslim Australians
  2. More than 22% claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Middle-­‐Eastern Australians
  3. Almost a tenth of respondents (9%) had negative feelings towards Aboriginal Australians
  4. More than 36% believe the number of immigrants accepted into Australia is too high or much too high
  5. Over 41% believe Australia is weakened by people of different ethnicities sticking to their old ways
  6. Some 20% believe African refugees increase crime in Australia. Men and older participants were more likely to believe African refugees increase crime
  7. Almost a third (32%) of respondents reported having experienced racism within their workplace
  8. Almost a third (32%) of respondents reported having experienced racism within an educational facility
  9. Those who belong to a Language Other Than English (LOTE) background reported the highest rates of workplace racism (54.1%), and racism within various educational institutions (55.8%)
  10. The experience of racism on public transport or in the street was the highest at 34.1%, followed by at a shop or shopping centre at 32.2%. Online experiences of racism were also quite high at 28.2%
  11. Close to half of respondents (48.6%) believe people from racial, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities should behave more like mainstream Australians
  12. Over half of respondents (54.4%) agreed Australia should help refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland, but 43% said they believe all boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back.

Racism in Australia — does it exist? Based on the most recent studies, it depends on who you’re asking, and evidently, what questions they’re answering. 

Read: The moral clarity of journalism is lost if the news really is from nowhere