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Migration and Transnational Social Protection in (post-)crisis Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MiTSoPro (Migration and Transnational Social Protection in (post-)crisis Europe)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

High rates of unemployment in Europe since the start of the 2008 financial crisis, coupled with changing migration trends, have led to a high number of EU and non-EU migrants asking for social protection benefits. Governments across the EU have accordingly considered reducing migrants’ access to this support, despite the fact that these people are increasingly at risk of poverty and exclusion. Migrants’ strategies to cope with health or unemployment risks are at the core of this project. Spanning from the entitlements in host and home countries to informal family and community-based practices, Dr Lafleur will investigate what he defines as ‘transnational social protection’. His team will compile information on welfare entitlements from the 28 EU member States and 12 non-EU countries into a single database. In addition, they will document the experience of immigrants accessing social protection in various cities across the EU. This data will contribute to a better understanding of the type of social protection policies for citizens living abroad.

As migration has become one of the most salient topic in political debates across Europe, MiTSoPro intends to bring scientific data in debates that often rely on clichés and stereotypes. What kind of access do immigrants have to welfare states across Europe? Are European welfare states more generous with their nationals living abroad than with foreigners residing on their territory? Beyond rights set in legislation, are immigrants actually able to access entitlements or are bureaucratic and other hurdles preventing effective use of social rights? Next to formal entitlements, what type of informal strategies do immigrants put in place to respond to social risks? These are the core research questions that MiTSoPro is addressing by combining quantitative and qualitative approaches.

On the quantitative level, the MiTSoPro team is designing a database on immigrant welfare entitlement across the EU28 Member States. It also looks at 12 additional non-EU states that are among the largest senders of immigrants to Europe in order to determine whether those states are capable to respond to potential deficiencies in access to welfare faced by their citizens who migrated in Europe. This step of the project relies on a network of 80 experts from 40 countries (EU28 + 12 non-EU states). Each state counts one social policy and one migration policy expert who filled two expert surveys (one on social policy and one on diaspora policies) designed to identify the conditions of access to welfare entitlements and other ad hoc benefits in the areas of unemployment, health, social assistance, family benefits and pensions. Survey results will be treated in order to generate an index on EU Welfare States' inclusiveness towards immigrants. Results of the survey will be made available in the format of scientific publications (each country experts wrote a report in the format of a book chapter available open access) and of a website where data will be presented in a user-friendly format.

In addition to the survey, the MiTSoPro team is conducting qualitative fieldwork with four immigrant communities across Europe: Senegalese, Tunisian, French and Romanian. In different European cities and in the country of origin, researchers will interview immigrants and relatives in order to identify how they access receiving and sending country welfare entitlements as well as identify the informal strategies by which they compensate for unsatisfactory access to formal welfare state entitlements. Results of the qualitative part of the project will be made available in the format of open access scientific publications (peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters).
During the first period of 18 months, the project has been successful launched and has consisted in four core missions that are critical for the completion of the first set of deliverables of MITSOPRO that are the creation of a database and index on social protection and diaspora policies : 1) recruitment of research staff, 2) design of the survey and identification of over 100 experts (with support of our advisory board) 3) review and treatment of survey results and descriptive reports on social policies and diaspora policies written by experts in view of creating the index and database website as well as publishing three edited volumes, 4) organization of methodological and ethics seminar to validate the data collection process.

During the second period of 18 months, another four tasks have been completed: 1) finalization of the data collection process and validation of country reports as forthcoming book chapters, 2) continuation of peer reviewing of survey data submitted by experts, 3) hiring of staff to conduct the ethnographic part of the project with Senegalese, Tunisian, Romanian and French migrants, 4) Participation in dissemination activities (ECPR General conference, IMISCOE Annual Conference, EUI citizenship conference) and organizing two major events: the IMISCOE Spring Conference in Liège (with a focus on social protection) and one 4-day session at the ECPR joint sessions in UCL Mons.
How do migrants access social protection in Europe? What kinds of social protection can migrants export from their home country when residing abroad? Under what conditions can migrants assemble their own cross-border social protection strategies, using home and host state policies and more informal community and family resources? In particular, how do these migrants’ social protection strategies fare to overcome inequalities in access to formal social protection in their country of residence? This project proposes a long-term research effort with the aims of answering these research questions.

Following the financial and economic crisis and European Union (EU) Member reforms to curb social expenditure as part of fiscal consolidation efforts, the use of social protection entitlements by EU migrants and third-country nationals has become increasingly controversial. In the context of migrants’ reduced access to social protection in the host country, the exportation of home country social protection and the development of informal strategies inside immigrant families and communities constitute important alternatives to help immigrants cope with socioeconomic hardship.

This project will thus contribute in an innovative way to the study of migration and the welfare state in Europe by studying transnational social protection, which we define as migrants’ cross-border strategies to cope with social risks in areas such as health, long-term care, pensions or unemployment, that combine entitlements to host and home state-based public welfare policies and market-, family- and community- based practices.

Overall, MiTSoPro will contribute to a better understanding of how migrants access social protection in two ways : 1) by creating an index and database on home and host country welfare entitlements in 40 countries to comparatively measure the variations in home countries’ social protection provisions available towards citizens abroad, and 2) by conducting a multi-sited ethnographic study with Senegalese, Tunisian, Romanian and French migrants on the interactions between migrants’ formal and informal social protection strategies.
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