Handbook on Society and Social Policy
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Handbook on Society and Social Policy

Edited by Nicholas Ellison and Tina Haux

This comprehensive Handbook provides a unique overview of the key issues and challenges facing society and social policy in the twenty-first century, discussing how welfare is conceptualised, organised and delivered in contemporary global society. Chapters engage with specific areas of social policy as well as with the social divisions and institutional infrastructures that underpin them. The Handbook also considers how social policy should respond to the challenges posed by austerity, human migration and the climate crisis.
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Chapter 38: Migration and the welfare state: welfare magnets and welfare chauvinism

Tim Reeskens


Undoubtedly, migration is one of the major challenges for advanced industrialized societies at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Confined by the boundaries of the nation state, solidarity between co-nationals is argued to be threatened by the ongoing influx of non-nationals. The aim of this chapter is to unravel the complex relationship between immigration and the welfare state. This puzzle is approached from its two opposing causal angles. On the one hand, the idea of ‘welfare magnetism’ proposes that generous welfare states distort immigration flows, meaning that immigrants go disproportionally more to countries that offer generous schemes of social protection. On the other hand, the concept of ‘welfare chauvinism’ entails that immigration threatens social solidarity because it enhances solidarity with insider co-nationals while it excludes outsider immigrants for welfare support. This contribution reviews the state-of-the-art literature on this topic, underscoring the complexity of the arguments, and showing that public understandings of how immigration threatens the welfare state requires necessary nuance.

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