MobileWelfare

European Welfare Systems in Times of Mobility

The MobileWelfare project aims to understand the role of welfare systems in destination and origin countries for migration patterns within and towards Europe. The project moves beyond prior studies on the contested existence of ‘welfare magnets’ and the presumed threat of (low-skilled) migration to the viability of welfare state benefits. So far little is known on the role of welfare regimes in origin countries on migration aspirations and decisions. Furthermore, little empirical knowledge of the effects of transferability of welfare entitlements on mobility in Europe exists. To fill these gaps and understand how growing levels of mobility intersect with existing welfare regimes across Europe, the project addresses three research questions: How and to what extent do welfare systems affect mobility patterns in Europe? To what extent and in what ways do perceptions of access to welfare arrangements in origin and destination countries shape migration decisions? What role does transferability of welfare accounts play in mobility across Europe?

The project combines macro and micro perspectives, and applies a mixed-methods approach of innovative analysis of existing statistics and migration data added with new primary data collection via case studies in seven countries. We go beyond categorizations of receiving and sending countries by considering all case study countries simultaneously as origins and destinations.

Migration dynamics are high on the scientific and societal agenda. One of the main drivers of population change in Europe nowadays is migration, however migration and mobility may question solidarity principles of the largely nationally organized welfare states and may have important implications for migrants, their families and the future of welfare systems. The project will help understanding the link between migration and welfare. This research will benefit academics and policy makers in understanding the ways in which and under which circumstances (free) migration may (or may not) challenge welfare systems in Europe. As a result of the varied nature of welfare systems, countries may be able to attract immigrants to their societies while others fail to do so. Getting a better understanding of the role of welfare states in mobility decisions can gain insights in promising policy avenues that can be developed by individual countries as well as across Europe to facilitate migration without undermining welfare provisions or migrants’ access to welfare over the life course.

In addition, the project generates insights into potential sources of growing inequality between mobile and non‐mobile European populations in terms of access to welfare. This study will therefore generate relevant knowledge for the development of policies aiming to prevent negative effects and growing inequalities in terms of access to welfare systems across Europe.

All materials that are developed in the project will be accessible at the project website: http://www.mobilewelfare.org/ On the website the most up to date state of the project, its findings and reports can be found.

Project Summary

The MobileWelfare project aimed to understand the role of welfare systems in destination and origin countries for migration patterns within and towards Europe. The project moves beyond prior studies on the contested existence of ‘welfare magnets’ and the presumed threat of (low-skilled) migration to the viability of welfare state benefits. So far little is known on the role of welfare regimes in origin countries on migration aspirations and decisions. Furthermore, little empirical knowledge of the effects of transferability of welfare entitlements on mobility in Europe exists. To fill these gaps and understand how growing levels of mobility intersect with existing welfare regimes across Europe, the project addresses three research questions: How and to what extent do welfare systems affect mobility patterns in Europe? What role does transferability of welfare accounts play in mobility across Europe? To what extent and in what ways do perceptions of access to welfare arrangements in origin and destination countries shape migration decisions?

The project combines macro and micro perspectives, and applied a mixed-methods approach of innovative analysis of existing statistics and migration data added with new primary data collection via case studies in seven countries. We go beyond categorizations of receiving and sending countries by considering all case study countries simultaneously as origins and destinations. The extensive qualitative fieldwork within the project has resulted in a comparative data set where both European and non-European migrants as well as natives were interviewed in seven different countries (the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the UK). Furthermore an experimental design on the role of welfare for migration aspirations was applied among master students in three different countries (the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal).

Results from the project first of all show that welfare does not have a clear one way (attracting magnet) effect but differs by individual characteristics and life course stage. Secondly, European migrants didn’t know about welfare provisions in country of settlement before moving. Third, the use of general government welfare spending measures are not useful to understand individual decision-making which depends much more on risk avoidance in specific domains of life by providing a safety net for unforeseen circumstances.

Migration dynamics are high on the scientific and societal agenda. The project helps to understand the links between migration and welfare. As a result of the varied nature of welfare systems, countries may be able to attract immigrants to their societies while others fail to do so. Findings from the project suggest that migrants have limited knowledge before migration and that welfare issues come more in when considering onward or return migration. Different life course stages of the person are in this regard crucial as they result in different views on the importance of welfare provisions in different domains. The idea that higher benefits attract more migrants is thus challenged: if this is all the case, the relationship is way more complex. In the existing literature, the role of welfare regimes in origin countries on migration aspirations, decisions and practices was largely overlooked due to a ‘receiving country bias’. However, the project results point to the importance of welfare regimes and informal family provision in the origin country. Going beyond a one dimensional view on welfare and migration is thus much needed to understand the interplay throughout the life course of an individual.