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Between welfare and farewell

The role of welfare systems in intra-European migration decisions
PhD ceremony:Ms P.W. (Petra) de Jong
When:January 17, 2019
Supervisor:H.A.G. (Helga) de Valk, Prof Dr
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Spatial Sciences
Between welfare and farewell

In my thesis, I studied how and to what extent intra-European migration decisions are influenced by welfare systems in both origin and destination countries. In the scientific literature as well as in public debates, migrants are expected to move towards destinations with a generous welfare system. My research however shows that the impact of welfare systems is much more complex than a general ‘magnet’ and depends on the way individuals may be affected by them. Many EU migrants move in life stages when they are least reliant on welfare state arrangements, and often leave the host country before gaining full access to its welfare system. Although I found little evidence for welfare state arrangements as a main motivation for migration, my research indicates that the welfare system may facilitate intra-European migration by providing protection against uncertainty and risks involved in the migration project. Even young, highly educated individuals appeared less willing to migrate in the absence of the safety net the welfare system provides. With freedom of movement as one of the fundamental principles of the EU, measures that restrict EU migrants’ welfare access can therefore be perceived as contrasting the aims of the European Commission. Finally, my research indicates that welfare state arrangements influence migration decisions mainly through the way they are experienced in the country of residence. Thus, whereas previous research mainly focused on an attracting impact of the welfare system in the destination country, my thesis underlines the importance of welfare state arrangements in the origin country.