Migration and social protection in European welfare states: Cui bono?

Abstract: Whether and under what conditions foreigners should be granted access to welfare benefits has been debated for as long as public welfare systems have existed. In contrast, research on the actual social protection of immigrants is still comparatively scarce in the welfare state literature. The dissertation contributes to an emerging body of research which addresses this ‘migrant gap’. It does so by introducing a new analytical lens. Rather than studying how immigrants gain access to formal social rights upon entry, it investigates how actual social benefits are distributed in relation to migrant-specific characteristics such as country of birth and length of residency. This perspective helps uncover how general welfare conditionalities – such as work-, membership and conduct-testing – affect the distribution of social protection in relation to cross-border migration without targeting the formal rights of immigrants specifically.In its examination of the relationship between welfare conditionality, migration and social protection, this thesis focuses on the provision of unemployment benefits in Western Europe welfare states in particular. Three independent empirical studies are conducted, using statistical analyses with administrative data. Their findings indicate that general work-related welfare conditionalities produce large gaps in benefit receipt between immigrants and native-born residents, particularly in countries that have so far been portrayed as comparatively inclusive in the welfare state literature. For disciplinary measures such as benefit sanctions, in contrast, immigrants are found to be less negatively affected. As a whole then, the dissertation demonstrates that the social protection of immigrants turns out to be much more complex as soon as we study the actual distribution of benefits inside and across countries with established welfare systems.