Handbook on Migration and Social Policy
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Handbook on Migration and Social Policy

Edited by Gary P. Freeman and Nikola Mirilovic

In this detailed Handbook, an interdisciplinary team of scholars explores the consequences of migration for the social policies of rich welfare states. They test conflicting claims as to the positive and negative effects of different types of migration against the experience of countries in Europe, North America, Australasia, the Middle East and South Asia. The chapters assess arguments as to migration’s impact on the financial, social and political stability of social programs. The volume includes comprehensive reviews of existing scholarship as well as state of the art original empirical analysis.
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Chapter 9: Control signals and the social policy dimensions of immigration reform

Chris F. Wright


Structural labor shortages, projected demographic shortfalls and an increase in cross-border business activity have prompted many advanced economies to selectively relax controls on economic immigration in recent years. However, expansive immigration policies tend to be unpopular among key voting constituencies, because of perceptions that they pose a challenge to a nation’s cultural unity and territorial integrity, or because they are viewed as potentially eroding employment opportunities and welfare protections of citizens and permanent residents (Boswell 2007: 88–93). Competing economic pressures for looser visa controls and populist pressures for restrictive policies can thus create an economic-political ‘control dilemma’ (Guiraudon and Joppke 2001: 12–13; Guiraudon and Lahav 2000: 187–90). The use of ‘control signals’ has been a government strategy in response to control dilemmas in order to generate sufficient political capital to liberalize work visa regulations (Wright 2014). The capacity of governments to use control signals rests largely on their handling of two issues: immigration control and social policy. The first involves restricting the entry of immigrant groups deemed to be unwanted, such as those seeking asylum or entering under family visas that may impose a burden on the welfare state.

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