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Migrants’ Access to Welfare in Times of Crisis: Policy Transformations and Migrants’ Experiences in the EU

Policy
European Union
WS13
Jean-Michel Lafleur
Université de Liège
Daniela Vintila
Université de Liège

Abstract

In this workshop, we aim to study the recent transformations of welfare policies towards EU and non-EU migrants in Europe and their impact on migrants’ lives both in terms of migration decision and access to social protection. Two international initiatives are associated with this event: 1) “Migration, Transnationalism and Social Protection in (post-) crisis Europe” - http://labos.ulg.ac.be/socialprotection/ (an ERC funded project coordinated by Dr Jean-Michel Lafleur at the University of Liège) and 2) The IMISCOE professional network (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe) where preliminary discussions on this issue are already happening. In addition, this workshop received the formal endorsement of the ECPR Standing Group on “Migration and Ethnicity”. Lastly, it also intends to build on and expand the work initiated in panels submitted for the 2018 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on the European Union (Paris) and for the ECPR Annual Conference (Hamburg). Over the last years, several democracies in Europe and beyond have started to experience fierce debates on the connection between migration and welfare systems. It has traditionally been suggested that migration poses a challenge for national welfare states, especially since the latter have been traditionally considered as closed systems whose boundaries tend to protect only those who qualify as members of a particular community (Freeman 1986). Since the beginning of the economic and financial crisis in 2008, the controversial argument that generous social protection schemes might constitute a pull factor for migration has gained even more salience at the societal level. By way of example, Eurobarometer data showed already in 2009 that a majority of EU citizens considered that immigrants contributed less in taxes than they benefited from health and welfare services (European Commission, 2010). Similar claims of “benefit tourism” or “welfare migration” can also be found in recent political debates (Benton 2013) and, in recent years, several EU Member States have taken steps to restrict new migration inflows (Lafleur and Stanek 2017). For instance, strong promises to curb migration were made during the debates that preceded the Brexit referendum and the French presidential elections. In particular, the pledges of British Conservatives to limit EU migrants’ access to welfare in the UK has triggered concerns throughout Europe that migrants may be at further risk of social exclusion in coming years (D’Angelo and Kofman 2017). However, the ways in which these negative attitudes towards migration and the societal opposition to migrants’ access to welfare provisions translate into policy have not been sufficiently explored so far in the academic scholarship (Sainsbury, 2006; Giulietti et al. 2011). Furthermore, the extent to which these transformations of national welfare systems play a role in migration decision making and in the migrants’ exposure to social exclusion is still largely unknown (Bommes and Geddes 2000; Sabates-Wheeler and Feldman 2011; d’Addio and Cavalleri 2014). This workshop thus aims to fill this gap in the literature on migration and welfare by focusing on two key research domains. First, we are interested in exploring how welfare systems are adjusting to increased mobility and growing anti-immigrant sentiments. Secondly, we aim to discuss migrants’ individual experiences in terms of accessing social protection, thus trying to identify the specific role that formal welfare entitlements play in migration decision-making. These two dimensions, we argue, are closely intertwined. Regarding the first question, in recent decades, historical institutionalism has become perhaps the most influential approach to explain welfare state adjustments (see Skocpol 1992; Pierson 1993). Following this approach, electoral rules, party systems, horizontal fragmentations of power, degrees of decentralization, and state capacity filter the mobilization of social and economic actors. However, there is no complete agreement about the specific direction of this influence and, more generally, institutional approaches, have been criticized for being more useful to explain continuity than change. Some researchers have thus focused on the power of ideas or discursive frames to socially construct the need for welfare reform (Cox, 2001; Schmidt, 2002; Beland and Cox 2011). But in a dual context of economic crisis and increased migratory movements, can welfare reforms escape the trend of welfare chauvinism? According to neofunctionalist approaches, endogenous and exogenous functional pressures —such as economic and migration crises— limit the ability of actors to make decisions about social policies because certain ideas such austerity tend to prevail over others (Van Kersbergen and Vis, 2014). Yet, countries experiencing similar migratory patterns are often implementing different kinds of welfare policies toward migrants. This realization calls for combining different theoretical approaches in the study of migrant access to welfare. It also calls to pay particular attention to the growing supranational normative framework that guarantees mobile EU citizens and third country migrants access to social protection but that often still creates unequal access when implemented across the EU (Guild, Carrera and Eisele 2013; Geddes and Hadj-Abdou 2016). An unexplored side-effect of migrants’ difficulty in accessing welfare in destination countries is that sending countries are developing new policies and programmes to enhance the protection of their citizens abroad. Welfare arrangements in the home country are therefore important (and underestimated) factors both in the study of migration decisions and in understanding how migrants access social protection in adverse political contexts (see Boccagni 2011; Kureková 2013). Accordingly, the workshop will also seek to examine transformations in (EU and non-EU) sending states’ welfare policies towards their citizens abroad. More precisely, innovative policies and programmes adopted by sending states —such as health services offered in consulates or educational programmes financed by the sending country— are explicitly designed with the objective of combatting social exclusion of nationals in destination countries (Delano 2011). Transformations of welfare policies need accordingly to be studied both from the perspective of sending and receiving states. Wirth regards to the second dimension of this workshop that concerns the impact of policy transformations on migrants’ lives, we adopt a similar transnational lens looking at both the sending and receiving societies. On the one hand, building on existing migration theories, we aim to find out to what extent the existence of a certain framework of social protection policies might either encourage or hinder the initial intentions of moving abroad, beyond classical “welfare magnet” approaches (Borjas 1999). We also seek to learn how migrants’ decisions of either remaining in the host countries, returning to their countries of origin or moving to another country can be shaped by the opportunities for social protection offered by the receiving and sending contexts. On the other hand, we wish to examine the role of these policy transformations on the migrants’ ability to access social protection. We are particularly interested in migrants’ individual and collective strategies and cross-border mobilization to access welfare entitlements and/or affect sending and receiving states’ policies that affect migrant welfare in the different stages of the public policy process: policy identification (i.e., how different groups of migrants formulate specific demands for social protection and how the changing migrant patterns affect welfare policies); policy formulation (i.e., the supply of social protection and different actors’ levels of engagement in policy changes); policy implementation (i.e., how social protection schemes for emigrants and immigrants are defined in practice) and policy evaluation (i.e., how these policy transformations affect migration decisions and, more generally the social conditions under which the migrants live). One expected outcome of this workshop is the publication of an edited volume on Migration and Social Protection in Europe with a high-quality academic publisher. As the salience of this topic has significantly increased in recent years, we are convinced that there is a space in existing scholarship for a large volume focused on the European Union that would combine theoretical and empirical contributions. About the co-organizers Jean-Michel Lafleur is the Associate Director of the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies (CEDEM) at the Social Science Faculty of the University of Liège. He is also a research associate of the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS). He was recently awarded an ERC Starting Grant to conduct research on the transnationalization of migrants’ access to social protection. His recent publications on the topic include: Lafleur, J-M and Mescoli, E. 2018. “Creating Undocumented EU Migrants Through Welfare: A conceptualization of Undeserving and Precarious Citizenship”. Sociology (forthcoming issue). Lafleur, J-M. and Stanek, M. eds. 2017. South-North Migration of EU Citizens in Times of Crisis. Dordrecht: Springer. Eloísa del Pino Matute is a Senior Researcher at Spanish National Research Council, IPP Institute of Public Goods and Policies, where she works on welfare, social policy reforms and public opinions. Her recent publications on the topic include: Del Pino, E. and Ramos, JA. Forthcoming. “Is Welfare Retrenchment Inevitable? Scope and drivers of healthcare reforms in five Spanish regions during the crisis”, Journal of Social Policy. Del Pino, E. y Pavolini, E. 2015. “Decentralization in a time of harsh austerity: multilevel governance and the welfare state in Spain and Italy facing the crisis”, European Journal of Social Security, 17:2, 246-270. References: Beland, D. and Cox, R.H. eds. 2011. Ideas and Politics in Social Science research. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Benton, M. 2013. “Reaping the benefits. Social security coordination for mobile EU citizens”. Migration Policy Institute, Policy Brief Series no 3. Available here: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/reaping-benefits-social-security-coordination-mobile-eu-citizens Boccagni, P. 2011. “Social protection as a multi-actor process in Ecuadorian migration: towards a transnationalism of social rights?” In R. Sabates-Wheeler, and R. Feldman (Eds.), Migration and social protection (pp 210-231). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Bommes, M., and Geddes, A, eds. 2001. Immigration and welfare: challenging the borders of the welfare state. London and New York: Routledge. Borjas , G. J. 1999. Immigration and Welfare Magnets. Journal of Labor Economics 1999 17:4, 607-637. Cox, R. H. 2001. “The Social Construction of An Imperative. Why Welfare Reform Happened in Denmark and the Netherlands but Not in Germany”, World Politics, (53): 463-498. d’Addio, A.C. and Cavalleri, M.C. 2014. Labour mobility and the portability of social rights in the EU. CESifo Economic Studies, doi:10.1093/cesifo/ifu014 D’Angelo, A., and Kofman, A.. 2017. “UK: Large-Scale European Migration and the Challenge to EU Free Movement”. In J-M Lafleur, and M. Stanek (Eds), South-North Migration of EU Citizens in Times of Crisis (pp 175-192). Dordrecht: Springer. Délano, A. 2010. “Immigrant Integration vs. Transnational Ties? The Role of the Sending State” Social Research, 77 (1): 237-268. European Commission. 2010. Standard Eurobarometer 71. Future of Europe. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb71/eb713_future_europe.pdf Eurostat. 2015. Migrant integration statistics- at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Migration_integration_statistics_-_at_risk_of_poverty_and_social_exclusion Freeman, G. 1986. “Migration and the political economy of the welfare state” The Annals of the American Academy for Political and Social Science, 485: 51.-63. Geddes, A. and Hadj-Abdou, L. 2016. “An unstable equilibrium: freedom of movement and the welfare state in the European Union.” In G, Freeman, and N. Mirilovic (Eds), Handbook of migration and social policy (pp 222-239). Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing. Giulietti, C., Guzi, M., Kahanec, G.M. and Zimmermann, K. 2011. Unemployment benefits and immigration: evidence from the EU. IZA DP No. 6075. Available here: http://ftp.iza.org/dp6075.pdf Guild, E. Carrera, S. and Eisele, K.. 2013. Social benefits and migration. A contested relationship and policy challenge in the EU. Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies. Kureková, L. 2013. “Welfare systems as emigration factor: evidence from the new accession states”. Journal of Common Market Studies 51(4): 721-739, doi:10.1111/jcms.12020. Lafleur, J-M. and Stanek, M. eds. 2017. South-North Migration of EU Citizens in Times of Crisis. Dordrecht: Springer. Pierson, P. 1994. Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchmen., Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Sabates-Wheeler, R. and Feldman, R. eds. 2011. Social protection and migration: claiming social rights beyond borders. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Sainsbury, D. 2006. “Immigrants’ social rights in comparative perspective: welfare regimes, forms of immigration and immigration policy regimes”. Journal of European Social Policy 16(3): 229-244. Schmidt, V. A. 2002. “Does Discourse Matter in Politics of Welfare State Adjustment?”, Comparative Political Studies, (35): 2, 168-193. Skocpol T. 1992. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Van Kersbergen, K. and Vis, B. 2014. Comparative Welfare State Politics: Development, Opportunities, and Reform, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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