The wall around the welfare state in Europe: International migration and social exclusion

Godfried Engbersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The increased mobility of people does not keep up with the increased mobility of capital. This paradox of globalisation finds expression in new forms of border control that are being developed in Western Europe. This new border control involves reinforcing the physical borders (external border control) and guarding the welfare state's system border (internal border control). While the US focuses on controlling the external, physical borders, Europe puts more emphasis on guarding the internal borders. The basic principle here is excluding unwanted immigrants from public provisions ('the wall around the welfare state'). Dual border control is, however, not watertight. The substantial number of illegal immigrants residing in Western Europe makes this clear. There is a gap between restrictive legislation and its actual enforcement. This gap is not only caused by international migration streams that are difficult to regulate, but also by the fact that illegal immigrants conduct crucial economic activities in specific sectors in the western economy. Thus, a clandestine class has emerged in Western Europe, which is formally excluded from labour and public provisions, but does live and work in these countries. Recent proposals to enlarge the legal immigration channels for labour migrants, will offer limited perspectives for illegal immigrants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-493
Number of pages15
JournalIndian Journal of Labour Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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