WSF TWS on Welfare and Migration

Welfare and Migration: Thematic Workshop and Masterclass on the Interrelation Between Welfare Arrangements and Migration in The Hague (the Netherlands), March 16-17, 2017

You can have a look at the full program here.

Selection of Presented Papers

Henrik Andersson, 4Is | Uppsala University | henrik.andersson (at)

Immigrant Firms and Neighboring Networks

Henrik Andersson

In this article I use high quality Swedish data in an attempt to identify the causal effect of how living close to individuals born in the same country as yourself, effects the propensity of self-employment. I follow two groups of arriving immigrants in 1990 and 1991, and study the chances for self-employment several years after arrival. I make use of a refugee dispersal program in place at the time in Sweden. When a newly arrived migrant got a residence permit, the immigration board placed the individual in a municipality, primarily based on available apartments. Following up on effects five years later the number or share of self-employed country-men already living in the municipality of arrival has a clear and robust effect on the chance of self-employment for immigrants who arrived in 1990 and 1991. The effect of the general number of country-men is however statistically significant. A preliminary conclusion is therefore that any effect of living close to other born in the same country on self-employment propensities run primarily through information and resources (that comes from other self-employed individuals), rather than the possibility to open up specific stores and sell niche products to a certain group. This paper adds to the literature on the drivers of country group heterogeneity in self-employment, but also to research on networks in general, and immigrant networks in particular.

“I thought the workshop was very intersting. For me as an economist it perhaps primarily worked as a way of getting an understanding on the questions asked and research done in other disciplines. Networking wise I enjoyed it in the sense that everybody was very friendly easy to work and spend time with. Regarding cooperation I would deem it as unlikely that cooperation’s come out of it. But then again my paper was a bit outside the theme of the conference.

Hidde Bekhuis, MIFARE | Radboud University | h.bekhuis (at)

Who Benefits? Perceptions of What Migrant Groups Are Seen as Benefitting from the Welfare State Among Nine Migrant Groups and Natives in the Netherlands and Denmark

Hidde Bekhuis

A number of studies have shown that fears of migrates burdening the welfare state are prevalent among natives. In this article we turn this focus to whether migrants also view other migrants as benefitting from the welfare state. Based on the “Migrants’ Welfare State Attitudes” survey, collected among ten migrant groups in Denmark and the Netherlands, we show that migrants, like natives, have the fears that other migrant groups benefit more from the welfare state than they contribute. These attitudes follow a relatively strict ranking such that the following migrant groups are ranked from highest in term of benefitting from the welfare state: western EU, rich countries outside Europe, eastern EU, poor countries outside Europe. Furthermore, we show that these rankings can mainly be explained by a combination of socioeconomic factors, the sense of belonging to the recipient country and migrants in general, as well as the usage of unemployment benefits in the migrant group.

Dominique Jolivet, MobileWelfare | University of Oxford | dominique.jolivet (at)

Towards a Contextualized Theorization of Welfare and Migration

jolivet Picture
Dominique Jolivet

There is an extensive literature on how, on a macro-level, welfare regimes affect migration decisions. These studies often focus on inequalities between welfare regimes and aim to understand whether generous welfare regimes in potential destinations play a role in migration – the welfare magnet hypothesis (Borjas 1999). Their results are contradictory, which may be linked to (i) their neglect of the potential role of welfare regimes in the regions of origin, as well as in previous countries of destination in the case of complex migration trajectories; (ii) the assumption that potential migrants have a good knowledge of welfare regimes in countries of destination; and/or (iii) the assumption that potential migrants who have not achieved security in terms of possible threats and challenges to people’s survival, livelihood and dignity, will prioritise this security over more subjective considerations of well-being in their motives to migrate. The starting point of this paper is the need to develop a more contextualised theorisation of welfare and migration (de Haas 2014) and a more holistic conceptualisation of welfare regimes that encompasses its material, social and cultural dimensions. One way of advancing towards this goal is to explore to what extent theories initially generated to explain migration in a particular context can be applied to other settings. Taking up this approach, this paper proposes a conceptual framework, and examines how the new economics of labour migration approach (explaining migration as a strategy to diversify risks and invest in the origin country) and the lifestyle migration approach (where migration is part of a search for a more meaningful and self-fulfilling lifestyle) can be combined and further developed to advance the theorisation of the role welfare regimes and migration. The paper draws on a selective literature review and illustrates its argument with an analysis of the experiences of security and subjective well-being of a 40-year-old man born in Nador (Morocco) who migrated to Lanzarote (Spain) and re-emigrated to Oslo (Norway).

Petra de Jong, MobileWelfare | Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute | jong (at)

Differences in Received Welfare within European countries and Life Course Characteristics of Migrants

Petra de Jong

Since the end of the nineties, the relationship between welfare and migration prominently figured on the agenda of policy-makers, and national policies got increasingly tough on migrants. Such measures seem to follow from the idea that welfare arrangements may influence the locational choices of immigrants. However, empirical evidence on such an effect is rather inconclusive. American studies that confirmed the existence of welfare migration often focused on vulnerable groups of the population. Previous studies in the European context on the other hand generally used aggregate data and tested whether countries with more generous benefits were also associated with larger inflows of migrants. Yet as the American studies recognize, welfare will not affect everyone to the same extent. Which provisions can be accessed varies with personal characteristics, and over different stages of the life course. With aggregate data it is however impossible to distinguish those migrants eligible for welfare from those who are not. In this study it is therefore investigated whether access to and amounts of family, unemployment and old-age benefits seem to affect the migration decisions of families, workers and retirees moving between 14 European countries in different ways.

“The Workshop provided an excellent opportunity to learn about – and from–  the work of other young scholars studying welfare and migration. Knowledge was shared, information exchanged and experiences within the field compared. Detailed feedback from the senior scholar and the discussant really helped my research one step further. A great way to familiarize myself with other research projects on my topic, as well as the people behind them!”

Paweł Kaczmarczyk, MobileWelfare | University of Warsaw | p.kaczmarczyk (at)

Igor Jakubiak, MobileWelfare | University of Warsaw | ijakubiak (at)

Burden or relief? Fiscal Impacts of Recent Ukrainian Migration to Poland

Pawel Kaczmarczyk

In recent public debates immigrants are commonly presented as a threat to host economies and societies. On top of this fiscal impacts of immigration are among the hottest and most controversial issues being discussed. Against this background research outcomes presented during the WSF master classes focused on (1) empirical assessment of the net fiscal position of Ukrainian immigrants in Poland and on (2) discussion of possible changes related to recent socio-political events in Ukraine, with a particular emphasis on armed conflict in its Eastern part.
In theoretical terms there exists no clear or coherent theoretical framework to explain fiscal effects of migration. Outcomes of empirical studies are mixed and not unequivocal, but generally prove that fiscal impacts of immigration are small or negligible. In explanatory terms, type of migration, labour market incorporation (absorption) and institutional framework at destination (structure of the welfare state) are presented as critical factors.
Importance of those factors has been tested by empirical analysis employing the most recent data on Ukrainian migrants in Poland. As a point of departure we took the study by Kaczmarczyk (2013) showing that the net fiscal position of Ukrainian immigrants in Poland is unequivocally positive as is their impact on the state budget. This is mostly due to favorable characteristics of incoming immigrants (in terms of age and education) and particular migration strategies in work (pure labor migration). These features, however, to a large extent result from modes of labor market incorporation and structural characteristics of the Polish welfare state. Importantly, however, it is commonly claimed that post-conflict (i.e. post-2014) migration from Ukraine differs significantly from previous waves. In particular, selection mechanisms are changing to favor better educated and temporary movers, more often than before originating from the Central part of the country. Nonetheless change in the selectivity pattern does not translate into change in the net fiscal position of Ukrainian migrants (as it stays highly positive).

Key findings:

  • Contribution of Ukrainian migrants to the Polish budget is clearly positive.
  • Low level of welfare dependency of Ukrainian migrants is attributable to favorable socio-demographic characteristics of immigrants, their migration strategies (prevalence of temporary/circular migration schemes) and an efficient labor market incorporation.
  • Other factors impacting the net fiscal position are system specific – in particular, limited generosity of the Polish welfare system could be presented as an important factor shaping migrants’ selectivity (in favor of labor migrants).

Keywords: immigration to Poland, Ukrainian migration, welfare impacts of migration, net fiscal position

“WSF Master Class was – in my opinion – an extremely successful event and this was for a number of reasons:

  • careful selection of papers allowed for a broad and interesting overview of recent research activities within a few WSF projects and in-depth discussion on migration-welfare nexus;
  • time schedule gave an opportunity to focus on discussion and exchange of comments (instead of presentations only);
  • networking was a great value added – participants continued their discussions during coffee and lunch breaks and some of those discussions already led to initial ideas for future cooperation;
  • a meeting organized by Helga de Valk (with a participation of project leaders and PIs) was devoted to discussion on cross-project collaboration and future scientific activities of project teams – as projects presented during the WSF Master Class are to a large extent complementary there is a number of possible avenues for future cooperation including establishing of migration-welfare network to be active in the post-financing phase; additionally there is an idea to devote one of future meetings to discussion on cross-projects publications and follow-up research activities.” (Paweł Kaczmarczyk)

Dion Kramer, TransJudFare | Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam | dion.kramer (at)

Administering the Needy EU Citizen: the Impact of ECJ case law on National Welfare State Bureaucracy

Dion Kramer

I presented my research on the administration of social rights of European Union (EU) citizens who move to other Member States. Although the impact of EU law on national welfare states has been studied by researchers, the impact on the administration of the social rights of Union citizens has attracted less attention. This is surprising, since the special rights of Union citizens are especially burdensome for administrative authorities in Member States, such as those responsible for welfare and migraton. I therefore expected that Member States, confronted with a rising number of Union citizens who rely on their free movement rights, reorganise the administration of Union citizens’ access to their welfare system, but was wondering exactly how they would do so. With this question I conducted an in-depth case study in the way the Netherlands adjusted the administration of Union citizens’ access to social assistance between 2001-2016. On the basis of this research I distilled four ideal-typical models of administering Union citizens’ access to social assistance benefits and identified explanatory factors that cause or delay Member States to shift from one model to another that can also be used to study similar processes in other Member States. I concluded my presentation by arguing that by redesigning their administrative systems, Member States are able to shift both the administrative burden and legal uncertainty to Union citizens and contain their access to the welfare state in this way.

The workshop was a great opportunity to exchange scholarly perspectives on a key challenge to today’s globalised world: tensions between migration and the national welfare state. I particularly enjoyed the intense discussions amongst young researchers coming from a variety of disciplines. For me personally, as a lawyer dealing with social science theories and methodogies, talking to sociologists and economists focussing on migration and the welfare state was very valuable and I feldt valued for bringing in some ‘legal’ knowledge.

Bruno Machado, MobileWelfare | University of Lisbon | bmachado (at)

Jennifer McGarrigle, MobileWelfare | University of Lisbon | jmcgarrigle (at)

Maria Lucinda Fonseca, MobileWelfare | University of Lisbon | fonseca-maria (at)

Alina Esteves, MobileWelfare | University of Lisbon | alinaesteves (at)

Migration and Welfare Strategies Between Portugal and the UK: Incorporating Settlement, Return and Non-migrant Perspectives

Maria Lucinda Fonseca
Machado Picture
Bruno Machado

The work we have presented at the WSF workshop entitled “Migration and welfare strategies between Portugal and the UK: Incorporating settlement and return perspectives” focused on the role of welfare provisions, both formal and informal, for three internally diverse groups of migrants in terms of stage in the life-course: Portuguese migrants in the U.K., Portuguese returned migrants from the U.K. as well as returned migrants from the U.K. living in Portugal. These two countries present a case in point showing how varied migrants’ motivations can be, from cultural preferences, lifestyle choices to labor reasons or higher wages, between two very disparate welfare state regimes and levels of income. Based on our fieldwork consisting of 40 interviews, we aim to explore the different dynamics regarding migrants’ aspirations and perceptions reflected on their decision-making processes and strategies, moving beyond fixed categories such as “highly qualified” or “low qualified”, showing that the “classical” life course approaches must be questioned, that labels as “young migrant” or “labor migrant” are not static. There is a high level of unpredictability in migrants’ lives that demonstrate the non-linearity of migrants’ decision-making processes. Migrants develop increasingly complex strategies, from transnationalism to welfare arrangements that rely not solely on the state, but also on the non-state and personal level. Common assumptions, from academia to political discourse, stating that migrants’ seek countries that offer high levels of benefits are also explored in this work, showing that there is a level of unawareness regarding these matters that must be thoroughly analyzed. Aspects such as life style or quality of life are also at stake in these processes.

“First of all, I would like to congratulate the WSF “Welfare and Migration” workshop’s organization for creating this great opportunity to share and develop our projects, as well as too look deeper at some paramount theoretical topics and research experiences regarding welfare and migration. I believe that particularly for the PhD students, the abovementioned workshop enabled us to exchange information, overcome struggles that are surpassed a lot easier through sharing experiences and knowledge than through individual research. Thus, this event created the perfect opportunity to develop important networks not only between PhD students but with everyone involved, which hopefully will be reflected in future cooperation between different WSF projects that share many of the same concerns and goals. There was truly an atmosphere of joint planning across different project teams and researchers that mirrored the importance of such initiatives.” (Bruno Machado)

It was a great opportunity to know about what it is going on in the other projects, to exchange ideas, receive feedback on our own project and explore possibilities of cooperation with the other project teams. The workshop was very well organised and we  had fruitful debates in a very friendly environment.” (Maria Lucinda Fonseca)

Jeanette AJ Renema, MIFARE | Radbound University | j.renema (at)

Roza Meuleman | Radbound University | r.meuleman (at)

Marcel Lubbers, MIFARE | Radbound University | m.lubbers (at)

Immigrants’ Knowledge About their Welfare Access: A Study Among 10 Immigrant Groups in the Netherlands

Jeanette AJ Renema

Often attention is drawn to immigrants’ vulnerable socioeconomic positions in society. Studies underline that, despite welfare eligibility, immigrants’ benefit participation rates stay relatively low in otherwise generous welfare states. Welfare entitlement research has found that knowledge is key in explaining these low benefit participation rates. Nevertheless, little research attention has been paid to immigrants’ knowledge about their benefit entitlement and what the differences are between the better-informed and lesser-informed immigrants. This study draws on the literature of welfare entitlement, social capital, and human capital and we aim to answer to what extent the accuracy of immigrants’ knowledge about their welfare eligibility in the residing country can be explained by (host-country specific) human and social capital. For the purpose, we make use of very recent and unique data on Migrants’ Attitudes toward the Welfare State (MIFARE). The survey was set out among ten different immigrant groups (that differ strongly in their need for welfare programs) from EU and non-EU countries in the Netherlands. The first binomial logistic regression results show that inter-ethnic bridging social capital decreases the chances of knowing when the immigrant group of relevance (based on the country of origin) has access to the Dutch unemployment benefit and state pension programs. We, additionally, find that national benefit take-up rates affect immigrants’ knowledge accuracy as well. Indicating the importance of immigrants’ societal contexts in the country of destination. Further results show that increased proficiency in the Dutch language has a positive effect on immigrants’ knowledge accuracy, presenting the significance of host-country specific human capital.

As a new researcher, I learned a lot from the work of others. It also gave me the opportunity to present my work and exchange ideas with experts. I enjoyed the general project introductions and the interactive workshop about communication with stakeholders.” (Jeanette AJ Renema)

Maarja Saar, TRANSWEL | Södertörn University | maarja.saar (at)

Florence Fröhlig, TRANSWEL | Södertörn University | florence.frohlig (at)

Co-authors: Valeria Kopeykina and Martin Ericson

Once a Migrant, Always a Migrant – Vernacularization of Borders in Estonian-Swedish Case

Maarja Saar

Our research focuses on different types of borders which Estonian migrants experience when entering to Sweden. Balibar has stated that borders these days are everywhere. Our approach is inspired by his statement and hence, in our article we illustrate these different borders that migrants have to tackle in very different stages of their stay. On one hand, Estonian migrants in Sweden experience borders when entering to the country, especially in relation to them getting access to the labor market. Since Swedish labor market is highly network based, Estonian migrants are often ‘forced’ to use semi-legal ways through Estonian construction companies. These entrance strategies are motivated by the hope of finding a more legal job in the future. On the other hand, Estonian migrants continue to experience borders long after they settled in Sweden. One of the examples of that is trying to port child benefits in the case of transnational families. It is not uncommon that Swedish authorities ask for new documents every year and decide to stop paying child benefits without contacting the migrant. In this way, migrant remains a migrant even if he or she has worked in the country for years. Shortly these kind of borders are of main interest in this publication.

“I found that the workshop was very interesting, especially because it was so streamlined. It is not so often that you end up at the same conference with so many people that are studying very similar topics. For me personally it was also interesting to see which theories different scholars engage in, since I found that our theoretical framework in the project is somewhat different from that of the others.
What I would have wanted more, perhaps, would have been some engagement between senior and junior scholars. The workshop functioned very much under the assumption that PhD and perhaps post-doctoral students should communicate with each other (senior scholars even had their own program).
The most rewarding part of the workshop was nevertheless finding out about other projects which engage in similar issues. In this respect the workshop fulfilled my expectations perfectly.”

Florian Zabransky, TRANSWEL | Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main | zabransky (at)

Intra-EU Mobility, Social Security Rights and Portability: Towards Profiles of Inclusion and Exclusion within the European Social Security Coordination System

Florian Zabransky

Free movement and the social security coordination system are important pillars of the EU.  Yet, the EU enlargements have repeatedly sparked debates about ‘benefit migration’. While questions of mobile EU citizens’ social security were relevant in debates around Brexit, some European governments also claim to tighten legislations on the issue. However, as several studies suggest, there is no evidence for ‘benefit migration’, neither in the intra-European nor in any other contexts.
Moving beyond the debate on ‘benefit migration’, this paper introduces selected results of a quantitative survey (n = 1,400) that was conducted as part of a TRANSWEL project in 2015/16. This survey focused on labour mobility in the context of recent EU enlargements between four pairs of countries: Bulgaria–Germany, Hungary–Austria, Estonia–Sweden and Poland–United Kingdom. The survey’s main question concerned areas of social security in which mobile EU citizens from the new EU member states claim and port their social security rights (unemployment benefits, family benefits and health insurance).
The paper consists of two parts. The first provides evidence of the quantitative importance of mobile EU citizens’ applications for social security rights and their portability. The second part uses logistic regression to indicate the main characteristics of mobile individuals who apply/port entitlements in various areas of social security and of those who do not. This analysis makes it possible to indicate applicants’ profiles of inclusion in or exclusion from the EU’s social security coordination system according to type of mobility (temporary/permanent), type of employment (regular/irregular) and further criteria such as gender and education. Our findings clearly show that mobile EU citizens who are involved in temporary (rather than permanent) mobility and who have had experiences of irregular employment tend not to apply for (formally available) social security rights and thus do not practice portability of social security rights.

The workshop was a great opportunity to meet people working in a similar field. The discussions after the presentations but also at the breaks and meals were inspiring and a good way to get to know other researchers.”

Workshop Opinions

Katrin Gasior, 4Is | University of Essex | k.gasior (at)

Gasior Pic
Katrin Gasior

The Workshop was an excellent opportunity for better insights into the various NORFACE Welfare State Futures projects. It was great to see so many people engaged in a topic that I deem very important and close to my heart. The Workshop provided a good way of critically discussing the link of Migration and Welfare State and made me aware of aspects that I need to consider in my own research.

Susanne K Schmidt, TransJudFare | Universität Bremen | skschmidt (a)

Susanne K Schmidt

It was very interesting to see how all the different projects can provide synergies and really bring our knowledge a step forward. Very nice to meet all the other colleagues.