An Easter Special: Social protection of migrants in Europe as seen through the eyes of European youth

European Youth Insights is a platform provided by the European Youth Forum and the European Sting, to allow young people to air their views on issues that matter to them. The following entry is written by Arif Shala,  doctoral student at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

Arif Shala__

Arif Shala is a a doctoral student at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany and executive director at the Institute for Economic Development Studies in Prishtine, Kosovo.

Migration is one of the most pressing issues of our time. In the globalized economy of the 21st century, migration results in various economic advantages for the domestic country, including but not limited to reduction of unemployment, and money infusion from remittances. The host country, is also subject to additional economic benefits tied primarily to  incoming labor force in times of labor shortages, and relatively cheap labor. It is necessary to highlight that with growing migration social consequences become noticeable.

Despite several benefits of migration, host countries, have denied access to social security and social protection to migrants. These decision have primarily been made in order to discourage permanent migration and encourage temporary migration instead. Evidence suggests that the latter is better accepted by the national population. Research has shown that temporary migration better represents the interests of migrants while in the mean time preserving the well-being of the domestic country.

Social Security

It is often that social security programs are viewed in light of inclusion versus exclusion. Inclusion however, is not achieved only with access to social security benefits, it is only complete once migrants are fully involved in the society.

In Western Europe  schemes vary from country to country but generally make a distinction between social protection for children, social protection for women and men of working age (unemployment protection, employment injury protection, disability benefits and maternity protection) and finally social protection for older women and men which generally refers to pensions and other non-health benefits.

In 2013 Western European countries spent 19.2 % of their overall GDP in social protection schemes. Of this percentage, the majority, 11.1 % goes in contributions to older women and men. The other two categories receive 2.2 % and 5.9 % respectively, which is significantly lower.  According to GDP data for 2013 the overall sum invested in social protection schemes amounted roughly to 2.5 trillion dollars.

Social Protections Schemes Europe

Table 1. Budget for Social Protection Programs in EU in 2013.

Social security is tied to the concept of solidarity. However, only special groups benefit and have access to solidarity founds. Every solidity scheme clearly indicates who is in and who is out. The new developments across the world argue that the need for a new approach towards social protection is inevitable. This new approach proposed by them argues for meeting minimum care requirements in accordance with human rights standards along with making income support and credits available to migrants who decide to return to their country.

Forms of social protection include social insurance, social and medical assistance and informal social security. Social security systems provide citizens with the right to access income security, overcome poverty and inequality and promote inclusion and dignity. It is through this manner that citizens benefit from health care, necessary income and education perspectives.

Social Benefits

Generally speaking, European countries provide access to insurance protection for migrants conditional upon their legal status, including cases of temporary work status. Social assistance is also not conditional upon nationality. Within European Union states, legal migrants are able to file for social assistance. In very special cases temporary social assistance may be offered to illegal immigrants as well. Even in cases when migrants are legally allowed to benefit from social programs they can do so only after spending some time residing in the new country.

Formal social services such as education and housing remain out of reach until a specified period of time has passed. What is even worse is the fact that many rich countries have modified requirements for social systems in an attempt to deny access to such systems for migrants. It should however be noted that by relying on assistance migrants can easily harm their permanent residency perspective. In order to obtain the right to live and work in the EU a migrant is required to demonstrate the ability to financially maintain oneself and the family.

Economic Implications Security Protection Programs

It is estimated that 80% of the world population is denied comprehensive social protection. Unfortunately it is only through these programs that countries are able to fight inequality and poverty. Social protection is considered to be the tool through which inclusion and sustainable development are made available. Research evidence suggests that exclusion from social protection makes people in general, and vulnerable groups in specific subject to poverty in which they can remain for generations. Of all population groups migrants are more likely to sink to poverty. Consequently, it is through these programs that they are offered a chance to become involved in the society.

Evidence suggests that access to social security and decent work explain the difference in progress between countries. Countries which did not provide their populations with access to decent work and social security schemes achieved little progress between 1990 and 2005 in comparison to other countries.  Social protection schemes make it possible for all members of the society to have access to vital goods and services.

Due to the fact that social protection promotes inclusion and sustainable development it should be considered an investment which promotes economic growth. It is the channel through which human development objectives are met. Conditions such as better nutrition, health and education are fulfilled. It is only once the conditions of education opportunity, health care, food, accommodation and basic income security that a person can become productive member of the workforce.

Additionally, these schemas, by offering decent employment, foster the transition from low levels of productivity to higher ones. Accounting thus for economic growth. Research evidence suggests that policies which are linked to social security radically improve productivity, employment while in the mean time supporting economic developments. Furthermore, social security is tied to higher resilience levels and faster recovery rates.

Economies that benefit from such programs are better at stabilizing themselves during economic crisis as well as overcoming them faster.  Economic growth is supported by social protections programs by securing the household income while in the mean time protecting domestic consumption. Consequently, in   order to benefit from social and economic development, the objective of all countries should be to include all groups in social security programs.

About the author

Arif Shala is a a doctoral student at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany and executive director at the Institute for Economic Development Studies in Prishtine, Kosovo.

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