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: On the website the most up to date state of the project, its findings and reports can be found.