National Institutions - International Migration. Labour Markets, Welfare States and Immigration Policy

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: All advanced capitalist countries admit entry to some immigrants and refuse entry to others. Despite the fact that all these countries accept some, but not all, potential immigrants, the variation when it comes to the admission of foreigners – or immigration policy – is still considerable. Policies and practices range from active invitation or legal admission to mere tolerance or outright rejection of the people that wish to enter these countries. This study sheds light on some aspects of this variation in policies and practices by developing and testing an institutional explanation for immigration admission. A central point of departure for the study is that in order to understand variation in immigration patterns, we need to pay attention to, and develop different explanations for, different types of immigration. Building on a comprehensive literature of labour markets and immigration, the study first suggests that institutional arrangements in the labour market matter for the relative importance of labour immigration to a country. More specifically, using data over yearly admissions of labour immigrants in a quantitative analysis, the study shows that labour immigration tend to be more important in economies with liberal labour market institutions than in more regulated labour markets. Using public opinion data, the study further shows that perceptions of immigrants tend to differ between labour market contexts. Drawing on theories from the comparative welfare state literature the study then suggests that generous and universal welfare state institutions, through their effects on norms and values, will have a positive impact on the intake of forced immigrants – that is, refugees and asylum seekers. This hypothesis is supported by a quantitative analysis using data over yearly admissions of forced immigrants. Analyses of public opinion data, official documents and secondary sources further lend support to the suggested causal mechanism. The overall conclusion is that these national institutions do matter for immigration policies, although their impact has to some extent weakened over time.

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