Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

SOLID: Solidarity under strain - A legal, criminological and economic analysis of welfare states and free movement in the EU

Analysing the ways in which immigration structurally challenges and changes the organization and conceptual boundaries of national welfare states.

Contact
Olaf van Vliet

The extent to which Union citizens can access welfare in a host-Member State is a controversial and highly sensitive political issue, and one which divides opinion in a crisis-hit Europe. Welfare states can be said to be governed by the principle of solidarity, this principle usually coming in the form of membership to some form of community, such as that of the nation state. Preserving the welfare state’s advantages entails the limiting of access to benefits for certain persons, meaning national welfare arrangements are by their very nature closed systems. These closed systems need boundaries to distinguish between those who are ‘in’, and those who are ‘out’, and make clear that only certain persons are entitled to certain benefits. In contrast to national welfare systems, which implicitly ensure closure, the process of European integration demands more openness. As such, states are trapped in a ‘liberal paradox’. The free movement of people within Europe and its associated labour migration challenges national welfare states.

Whilst it has been demonstrated and politically contested that immigration affects national welfare states, it is still not fully understood why and how this happens. The overall aim of this project is to analyse the ways in which immigration structurally challenges and changes the organization and conceptual boundaries of national welfare states. We focus on two routes by which immigration can undermine solidarity: 1) putting pressure on formal welfare state arrangements and 2) hiring immigrant workers under conditions that violate national labour law standards. By presenting theoretical mechanisms that link immigration to welfare state reform and empirically assessing these, we aim for increased understanding of the relation between labour migration and welfare in the light of European integration. The proposed quantitative and qualitative interdisciplinary research will make a significant contribution to the quest of finding the elusive balance between Member State ‘sovereignty’ with regard to welfare system organization and the protection of rights of all Union Citizens, and assess the role which solidarity does and should play in the realization of this delicate balance.

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