Welfare states, demographic transition and immigration policies

  • Philipp LutzEmail author


How does demographic change influence immigration policies in Western welfare states? In this chapter, I discuss two perspectives on the relationship between demographic ageing and labour immigration policies. Welfare states are under financial strain and face a trade-off between too little immigration that could undermine their economic foundation and too much immigration that could undermine their social foundation. Do welfare states admit more foreign workers to sustain their welfare state model in the context of demographic ageing? This contribution analyses the effects of population ageing on policy openness to immigration and how welfare state regimes moderate this relationship. I examine these questions by conducting a quantitative-comparative analysis of labour immigration policies in 21 Western democracies between 1980 and 2010. The results reveal that the liberalisation of immigration is a common response to demographic ageing but varies by welfare state regime. Social-democratic welfare states face larger welfare risks from immigration and more difficulties to integrate foreign labour. Instead of liberalising immigration, they opt for the facilitated expansion of female employment. Only in the case of liberal and conservative welfare states is there evidence for a demography-induced liberalisation of immigration. The findings suggest that welfare state arrangements condition how countries respond to the demographic challenge of an ageing population.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universität Bern & Université de GenèveBern, GenevaSwitzerland

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