Welfare without borders: unpacking the bases of transnational social protection for international migrants
Oxford Development Studies, 2017, vol. 45, issue 1, 33-46
Hannah Arendt famously defined citizenship as ‘the right to have rights.’ While states have special obligations towards citizens, which typically include some level of social protection, their general obligations towards non-citizens derive from the international human rights regime and do not include social security access. Yet, many countries provide social protection to non-citizens, including welfare benefits. Others extend coverage to extra-territorial citizens. What explains this puzzling expansion of social protection for international migrants? This article investigates the bases upon which states establish and legitimize transnational social protection (TSP). Findings suggest that, despite international norms, states have not extended social rights to non-citizens on the basis of personhood and non-discrimination. Instead, formal resource environments depend on migrant worker status within regions with integrated economies. TSP develops as countries establish supranational labour markets. Within these, migrants rely on their rights-conferring worker status (economic rather than political membership) to prove eligibility and access benefits. By increasing intra-market labour migration, which produces new development opportunities as well as new risks, economic integration becomes the catalyst for TSP.
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