MobileWelfare: European Welfare Systems in Times of Mobility

The MobileWelfare project aimed to understand the role of welfare systems in destination and origin countries for migration patterns within and towards Europe. The project moved beyond prior studies on the contested existence of ‘welfare magnets’ and the presumed threat of (low-skilled) migration to the viability of welfare state benefits. 


Results from the project first of all show that welfare does not have a clear one way (attracting magnet) effect but differs by individual characteristics and life course stage. Secondly, European migrants did not know about welfare provisions in country of settlement before moving. Third, the use of general government welfare spending measures are not useful to understand individual decision-making which depends much more on risk avoidance in specific domains of life by providing a safety net for unforeseen circumstances.

Migration dynamics are high on the scientific and societal agenda. The project helps to understand the links between migration and welfare. As a result of the varied nature of welfare systems, countries may be able to attract immigrants to their societies while others fail to do so. Findings from the project suggest that migrants have limited knowledge before migration and that welfare issues come more in when considering onward or return migration. Different life course stages of the person are in this regard crucial as they result in different views on the importance of welfare provisions in different domains. The idea that higher benefits attract more migrants is thus challenged: if this is all the case, the relationship is way more complex. In the existing literature, the role of welfare regimes in origin countries on migration aspirations, decisions and practices was largely overlooked due to a ‘receiving country bias’. However, the project results point to the importance of welfare regimes and informal family provision in the origin country. Going beyond a one dimensional view on welfare and migration is thus much needed to understand the interplay throughout the life course of an individual.

Project links

Research Team

Prof. H.A.G. De Valk
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute

Prof. M.L. Fonseca
University of Lisbon

Dr. H.G. de Haas
University of Oxford

Dr. P. Kaczmarczyk
University of Warsaw