Freeman and Mirilovic (eds), Handbook on Migration and Social Policy

Gary P. Freeman and Nikola Mirilovic (eds), Handbook on Migration and Social Policy, Edward Elgar, 2016, 1 78347 628 2, hbk, x + 481 pp, £170

This substantial volume really does ‘take a broad view of the manner in which migration may interact with social policy’ (p.1). A review of this length cannot possibly do justice to all twenty-four chapters, so I shall concentrate on those that might be of particular interest to readers of this Newsletter.

In the first section, on analytical perspectives, Helbling asks that we study immigration, integration, and citizenship policies together, rather than separately. Such an approach could provide us with some useful new answers to the question ‘Who should receive a Citizen’s Income?’ And Janoski discusses the negative correlation between naturalization rates and social welfare expenditures ­­– an example of the ‘Freeman conundrum’: the contradiction between open borders and comprehensive (national) welfare states. In the second section, on political economy, Ortega and Tanaka discover a similar trend in the field of education: immigration can cause native flight towards private education, which can undermine political support for public education, and result in lower funding and quality. Welfare states in general appear to be similarly afflicted. The third section, on trade-offs between immigration and social policy, contains an interesting study of how government policy can send anti-immigration signals that enable public opinion to accept immigration that might be beneficial to a country’s economy. The chapter is evidence that the causal link between public opinion and government action is far from unidirectional. In the fifth section, on diversity, cohesion, and support for the welfare state, Facchini, Mayda and Murard find evidence for their hypothesis that skilled migration makes low-skilled native workers more in favour of redistribution. In the sixth section, migrant integration and social policy, Peters and Vink argue their way towards the question: ‘To whom, and under which conditions, is citizenship important?’ In the final section, on immigrant rights versus immigration politics, Money, Lockhart and Weston argue that efforts to protect migrants should be aimed at national and local government, and that international fora are irrelevant. All of these chapters’ conclusions have clear implications for the Citizen’s Income debate. Public opinion is complicated; citizenship is complicated; creating change is complicated.

In the fourth section of the book, on opposition to immigration, security, and the limits to free movement in the European Union, Geddes’ and Hadj-Abdou’s chapter on the relationship between EU member states’ welfare states and freedom of movement within the EU, find that the combination of free movement of labour and welfare states functioning at the level of the nation state inevitably cause opposition to free movement, to immigration, and to the European Union. Given the unlikelihood that twenty-seven nations will agree to compromise on free movement within the Union,

what seems more likely to happen is the toughening of controls on welfare-state access for EU migrants coupled with a much tougher transitional framework for countries joining the EU in the future … it is unlikely that this will be enough to stem the growth in support for Eurosceptic movements that do not resolve the free-movement/welfare dilemma but tap into a fertile seam of support from many of their citizens who feel disillusioned and let down by mainstream political parties and their leaders. (p. 236)

 Europe’s politicians and civil servants should have this book on their bookshelves, and should tick off the predictions as they happen. But what the book does not do is offer prescription. That was not the authors’ brief: so in relation to migration and the welfare state I shall fill the gap. If the EU is to tackle the ‘very unstable equilibrium’ of EU-level free movement and member-level welfare states, either free movement will have to cease ( – unlikely), or the welfare state will have to function at the EU-level instead of, or as well as, at the level of the nation state. No member state’s electorate will respond well to being asked to dismantle its welfare state, so a new EU welfare state will need to be constructed alongside the many different national welfare states. The obvious candidate is a European Citizen’s Income.

The fact that I have not mentioned a chapter does not in any way suggest that it is not worth reading. It is. If you don’t read it, then others will. The whole point of a ‘handbook’ is that readers go to it with questions to which they require answers: and the conscious way in which each of the chapters’ authors relates data to the normative and ethical questions raised by migration ensures that when readers seek out chapters that tackle the questions that they are asking, they will find useful theoretical frameworks, evidence-based discussion, and relevant conclusions. A follow-up volume that shifts the focus away from analysis and diagnosis and towards prognosis and prescription would be an additional valuable contribution to debates about migration, social policy, and Citizen’s Income.