Migration and the Welfare State

Course content

International migration is regularly presented both as a threat and a necessity for contemporary European welfare states. We are used to hearing political arguments regarding scarce resources and financial burdens of immigration, but also those relating to shrinking and ageing populations and the need for foreign workers. In this course, we disentangle the debate on welfare and migration and explore theoretical and empirical connections between the two, with a focus on the European and Danish context.


The course covers the following topics and related theories:

  • The relationship between territorial closure, border control and welfare systems
  • How welfare and labour market institution shape migration flows, and migration policies, and vice versa.
  • The often-assumed challenge to welfare states resulting from immigration, in particular arguments about fiscal burdens and declining public support for public provision (the so called ‘progressive dilemma’), and how this might vary by political and institutional context.
  • Welfare states’ reliance for migrant workers, considering in particular dual labour market theory and demographic developments, and how this varies by political and institutional context.
  • How welfare states affect migrants’ social rights and wellbeing, and the inclusiveness of different types of welfare states.
  • The politics of including and excluding foreigners from social benefits and the notion of ‘welfare chauvinism’.
  • Welfare state challenges and opportunities resulting from emigration in countries of origin.
  • How several of the above issues apply in the context of EU free movement of persons and workers between national welfare states.


Students can expect a variety of readings from both political science and sociology that employ a range of theoretical approaches.

The course will be taught in English.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Data Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

Master Programme in Psychology

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Sociology

MSc in Social Data Science


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad


Learning outcome


Upon completing the course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • knowledge of how social policy and socioeconomic institutions are concretely linked to migration, and vice versa.
  • an understanding of key theories and concept relating to the connection between international migration and welfare states
  • an understanding of strengths and weaknesses of various theoretical and empirical approaches regarding the relationship between migration and social policy




This course will help student develop their ability to:

  • critically and independently engage with concepts and theories and real-world political developments,
  • grasp broader structural contexts in which political developments take place,
  • develop independent critical questions and arguments.



  • critical thinking
  • analytical skills
  • independent and collaborative work
  • oral and written communication

Classes will be very much interactive and will involve lecture-style elements, discussions in smaller and larger groups, group exercises, and lecture-style elements. Each week, we will together critically dissect theories and concepts and apply them to concrete examples.

Examples of readings:

  • Afonso (2019) Migrant Workers or Working Women? Comparing Labour Supply Policies in Post-War Europe, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 21(3): 251-269
  • Alesina, A. and Glaeser, E. (2004) Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pages: Ch 6: ‘Race and Redistribution’.
  • Albrekt Larsen, C. (2020). The institutional logic of giving migrants access to social benefits and services. Journal of European Social Policy, 30(1): 48–62.
  • Banting, K. and Kymlicka, W. (2007) Multiculturalism and the welfare state. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp: 1-30.
  •    Bay, A-H., Finseraas, H. and Pedersen, A. W. (2013) Welfare Dualism in Two Scandinavian Welfare States: Public Opinion and Party Politics, West European Politics, 36(1): 199-220.
  • Bruzelius, C., Reinprecht, C., Seeleib-Kaiser, M. (2017) Stratified Social Rights Limiting EU Citizenship, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 5(6): 1239-1253.
  • Careja R, Elmelund-Praestekaer C, Baggesen Klitgaard M, et al. (2016) Direct and indirect welfare chauvinism as party strategies: an analysis of the Danish People’s Party. Scandinavian Political Studies, 39(4): 435–457.
  • De Jong, P., & De Valk, H. (2019). Intra-European migration decisions and welfare systems: The missing life course link. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 46:9, 1773-1791.
  • Freeman, G. P. (1986) Migration and the political economy of the welfare state. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 485 (May): 51–63.
  • Germano, R. (2018) Outsourcing welfare. Oxford, OUP, Ch 1: Remittances and Austerity.
  • Guiraoudon, V. (2000) ’The Marshallian triptych reordered. The role of courts and bureaucracies in furthering migrants’ social rights.’ In M. Bommes and A. Geddes, (eds.) Immigration and Welfare: Challenging the borders of the welfare state. London: Routledge.
  • Kalm, S., and Lindvall, J. (2019). Immigration policy and the modern welfare state, 1880–1920. Journal of European Social Policy, 29(4): 463–477.
  • Kurekova, L. (2013). Welfare Systems as Emigration Factor: Evidence from the New Accession States. Journal of Common Market Studies, 51(4): 721–739.
  • Piperno, F. (2011). The Impact of Female Emigration on Families and the Welfare State in Countries of Origin: The Case of Romania. International Migration 50(5), pp. 189-204.
  • Sainsbury, D. (2006) Immigrants Social Rights in Comparative Perspective. Journal of European Social Policy, 16(3): 229-244.
  • van Hooren, F. J. (2012) Varieties of migrant care work: Comparing patterns of migrant labour in social care, Journal of European Social Policy, 25(5): 489-504.
  • Van Oorschot, W. (2000) Who should get what, and why. Policy and Politics, 28(1): 33-49.

Participants are expected to have a general understanding of theories of international relations equivalent to the department’s course in ‘International Relations’ at the BA. Knowledge of a particular policy area (i.e. climate, migration, pandemics or war) is useful as is as an openness to sociology of science, philosophy of science and theories of language.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assessment:

Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings

Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings

Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester



Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Sociology
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Cecilia Bruzelius   (4-73728285507976833e7b853e747b)
Saved on the 16-11-2023

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