Research event

Free movement and commodification: (e)migration instead of social policy

A presentation by Cecilia Bruzelius (Tübingen University). This event is part of the European Governance Colloquium.



Freedom of movement of persons and associated cross-border rights have received much attention in the literature on European integration and national social and economic policy. Most of this literature focuses on free movement as immigration and countries of destination, overlooking countries of origin. In this paper I consider ways in which free movement shapes social policy in countries of origin. My starting point is that migration can substitute for inadequate or missing national social institutions and that migration is a way to regulate labour market supply. Against this background, I argue that emigration can be understood as an implicit labour market policy and a substitute for social policy in EU Member States that do not provide adequate social protection for the unemployed, as these effectively rely on emigration to regulate labour over supply. This strategy is significantly easier in a context of free movement than in one where states must negotiate their citizens’ access to foreign labour markets. From this point of view, free movement between national welfare systems enables the commodification of citizens. I develop this argument by demonstrating that social protection for young people has not been significantly improved in several Member States with significant levels of emigration. Yet, at the same time, some of the same countries try to attract highly educated citizens back with social benefits to fill labour market gaps, thus further bolstering the commodification strategy. Free movement can so reinforce divergences between Member States, in contrast to the EU’s emphasis on upwards convergence in the field of social policy.


The presentation will be held online via Zoom

Meeting-ID: 966 2585 2262
Entry code: ruHT5jM8

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