Project B04

Open welfare states? Social protection of labour migration and its repercussions for national policies

Cross-border labour migration creates an important horizontal interdependence between countries. And this interdependence on the one hand challenges the national focus of social security systems, but on the other hand it creates incentives to build such systems. However, redistribution in welfare states is dependent on unity, which must be partly overcome by the growing economic importance of labour migration worldwide. Which models do exist for this? How does the welfare state, intricately linked to the legitimation of modern democracies, change in the transnational social space created through migration within Regional Organisations? Labour migration and its transnational social protection are mutually dependent, since better transnational social protection facilitates labour migration. While the thesis of the “welfare magnet” focuses on how welfare services may influence migration flows, we are interested in reverse causation in this project: How does migration affect the welfare state in the countries of origin and of destination?

Regional Organisations permit different degrees of labour migration and due to heterogeneous economic development of member states they offer different incentives. In the project we examine whether and how the freedom of movement regimes established by various Regional Organisations in Europe (EU), Asia (ASEAN) and the Americas (Mercosur/UNASUR, CARICOM) contribute to the development of a transnational social space and what repercussions result on national social policy. Thus, we are especially focusing on horizontal interdependence. To the extent that compulsory shared regional policies for labour migration and its protection exist, relations of vertical interdependence between supranational and national policies will become relevant.

We compare mechanisms of multilateral social policy coordination and ask: How do bilateral agreements and unilateral solutions compliment multilateral approaches to social security or how do they compensate for their absence? Our analysis of various agreements on social protection of labour migration shows how migration has repercussions for national social policy and by means of a transnational social space promotes or inhibits national social policy. The extent of labour migration itself is influenced by the varying framework and migration policies of the countries of origin and destination. There is a broad agreement on freedom of movement in the Mercosur, while in the CARICOM free movement only exists for certain occupational groups and in the ASEAN labour migration models are very heterogeneous.

In addition to multilateral agreements, the project also examines bilateral and unilateral measures for the social protection of labour migration designed to reconcile national social security policy with the demand for transnational labour migration. We analyse how the social protection of labour migration creates a transnational social space and ask what repercussions this has for the social protection of the majority immobile population.

Building on the macro-data collected by the projects in Department A, the project B04 investigates the relationship between labour migration and social protection with regard to uni-, bi- and multilateral social security agreements and their repercussions on welfare state policy for the immobile population. To this end, case studies will be prepared in which different mechanisms for explaining the structure and change of social security systems will be elaborated.