Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
SP02: Migration in Times of Europe's Economic Crisis
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Alberto Veira-Ramos, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Session Chair: Karin Peters, Wageningen University
Location: PC.2.14
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 2.
Semi-Plenary 02 with Elisabeth Scheibelhofer and Guglielmo Meardi.

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Free Movement Revisited - Labyrinths of Transnational Social Security for EU migrants

Elisabeth Scheibelhofer

University of Vienna, Austria

Based on a comparative three-year project TRANSWEL (2015-2018) I discuss results from qualitative fieldwork of European Union (EU) internal migrants in terms of securing their (transnational) social rights. Comparing four EU country pairs (Hungary-Austria/E. Scheibelhofer, Poland-UK/E. Carmel, Bulgaria-Germany/A. Amelina, Estonia-Sweden/A. Runfors) in a mixed methods approach we analyse the implications of ‘free movement’ for EU migrants moving from a so-called ‘new’ member state to an ‘old’ one. Based on 100 problem-centred interviews in the eight countries mentioned above, we comparatively investigate migrants’ perceptions of and experiences with the respective (transnational) social welfare systems. This entails the access to social benefits as well as the transnational portability of social rights of migrants.

We will conclude that social inequalities are highly reproduced by the complexity and the ambiguousness of most regulations within the EU social security systems. Social stratification is accelerated as one-time working migrants with no care obligations at young or middle age with high cultural and economic capital can realise the promise of free movement within the EU to a much higher extent than all other groups diverging from this ideal type. Free movement as one corner stone of the European Union thus needs to be re-evaluated in light of our empirical results: the labyrinths are such that many Europeans cannot secure their social security even if they are employed and contributing to the social security systems of the EU countries they are (transnationally) living in.


Elisabeth Scheibelhofer is Associate Professor in Sociology at the Department for Social Sciences, University of Vienna. Her works focus on migration, mobility and qualitative methods. Her research interests include more specifically migration and mobility of EU migrants within and outside of the EU as well as refugee studies with a focus on the experiences of refugees in rural areas. Currently, she works in the Norface project TRANSWEL on transnational social security of EU migrants (2015-2018) in which she has the overall responsibility of qualitative interviews with migrants and their significant others in eight EU countries. Publications and research also cover questions of interpretive methods such as qualitative in-depth interviews, participant observation and qualitative network analysis. She was the initiator and first chair of the ESA Research network 35 “Sociology of Migration”. Currently, she is part of the editorial board of the journal “Oesterreichische Zeitschrift fuer Soziologie” (Springer).

European Dilemmas Over Free Movement of Workers: Do Control and Openness Exclude Each Other?

Guglielmo Meardi

University of Warwick, United Kingdom

European migration has highlighted deep dilemmas over the compatibility of social protection and movement and on the social boundaries of welfare. These dilemmas came to a political crisis with the referenda against freedom of movement in Switzerland in 2014, and to leave the EU in the UK in 2016.

This presentation looks at the evidence of public opinion, public debates, and associational policies in a number of European countries (UK, Switzerland, Norway), as well as Canada, which is often portrayed as a 'model' by European politicians, going back to the EU enlargement and through critical cases such as the ‘British jobs for British workers’ strikes of 2009. It attempts to assess how far free movement of workers is really incompatible with social protection, and how far ‘control’ and ‘openness’ are really mutually exclusive.

The presentation identifies, more specifically, those dimensions of free movement that have become socially disruptive, and the variety of social responses that have emerged. It discusses the extent to which labour market regulations, social policies and social organisations can address social concerns over free movement while being perceived as ‘fair’ by both local and migrant groups, in order to ‘re-embed’ free movement of workers into local employment regimes. It will conclude with the identification of social propositions and experiments that go in the direction of fairness as ‘controlled openness’ as an alternative to the emerging polarisation between ‘control’ and ‘openness’.


Guglielmo Meardi (Laurea Milan, DEA EHESS Paris and PhD EUI Florence) is Professor of Industrial Relations and Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit at the University of Warwick, UK. After a decade of studying the ‘labour movement’, especially in Central Eastern Europe (see for instance his ‘Labour Movements’ entry in the ISA’s Sociopedia), in the last decade he shifted his research towards the ‘movement of labour’, again especially from Central Eastern Europe. His analysis of labour migration between the eastern and western EU member states is framed in an ‘Exit/Voice/Disloyalty’ paradigm, as outlined in his book ‘Social Failures of EU Enlargement: A Case of Workers Voting with their Feet’ (Routledge 2012). He is currently working on a study of the link between migration and labour standard regulations post-Brexit. Guglielmo has held visiting positions at universities and academies of sciences in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Slovenia.

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