Project B04 (2022-2025)

Causes of Inclusion and Exclusion: Immigrant Welfare Rights in Global Comparison

Project B04 examines the causes of inclusion and exclusion of migrants in national welfare states and explores how political parties and civil society actors drive and condition the course of processes of inclusion and exclusion. We focus particularly on the role of contextual factors. While the quantitative analyses allow us to take into account the effects of existing welfare state institutions, labour market conditions and the immigration regime, in four detailed case studies we focus on how political systems structure the opportunities civil society actors have to influence policies.

Inclusion is more likely to be initiated by civil society actors than by political parties. However, grassroots movements need to form coalitions with other influential national or international (civil society) actors and/or political parties to be successful in their efforts. Exclusionary efforts, on the other hand, are rather – but not exclusively – launched by political parties. Whether supporters or opponents of generous benefit entitlements prevail depends crucially on contextual factors such as existing welfare state institutions, the immigration regime and labour market conditions. Within democracies, party competition is central for the success of exclusionary demands. Furthermore, in democracies, coalitions between civil society and state actors are relatively easy to form, whereas in autocracies, state actors and employers tend to coalesce and civil society actors are potentially co-opted.

The project uses a mixed methods design. As a first step, the temporal coverage of the comparative longitudinal dataset on immigrant welfare rights created in the project’s first phase will be extended. Moreover, three additional benefits will be included: child benefits, social pensions and work injury benefits. The extension of the dataset allows us to quantitatively test hypotheses on the influence and interaction of different groups of actors and contextual factors. In the case studies, we compare the United Kingdom and Switzerland as well as Malaysia and Thailand. All four countries have relatively high net immigration rates by regional standards, and in all countries, there is evidence of civil society organizations advocating for migrants' rights. The case selection allows us to compare the activities of civil society actors between, but also among, democracies and autocracies. Switzerland, for example, as a consociational democracy that features referenda, offers different possibilities for civil society influence than is the case for the British majoritarian democracy. Malaysia, as a relatively stable, moderately repressive electoral autocracy that nevertheless experienced a brief phase of democratisation from 2018 to 2020, differs from Thailand, where phases of relative democratisation were frequently interrupted by military coups. In addition to interviews with representatives of the respective organisations and analyses of parliamentary debates and secondary literature, the case studies also make use of social media data collected using web scraping technologies.