Governance

Linking contributions to benefits

Different national welfare models and policies tend to be based on different underlying principles about who, among the resident population, should get access to welfare benefits and in what situation: for example, whether access to benefits should be based on ‘need’, ‘prior contribution’ or ‘universal access’.

In countries where there is a strong sense that welfare — including unemployment benefits, healthcare and family benefits — is linked to prior contribution, there tend to be fewer public concerns about migrants getting access to benefits. This appears to be on the basis that, to get welfare support, people have to have been paying into the system, meaning that, migrant or not, there is an expectation of reciprocity — i.e., that those who have paid in should receive benefits when they need them.

REMINDER researchers found that low degrees of reciprocity in national welfare systems (that is, implementing systems where access to welfare is not linked to prior contribution) can raise people’s opposition to free movement, especially among economically vulnerable groups in host countries.

What does this show about the relationship between attitudes and policy?

Do Europeans hold different beliefs about welfare benefits for EU and non-EU migrants?