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Mobile Populations in Immobile Welfare Systems: A Typology of Institutions Providing Social Welfare and Protection Within a Mobility Framework


The economic benefits of migration for developing countries through remittance-sending practices have been extensively researched on the migration-development nexus. Remittances are used not only for productive investments, but also to ensure social protection for migrants and their families, locally and transnationally, through complex formal and informal provisions. This is necessary because migrant-sending countries often have limited formal social protection institutions, whereas formal institutions in receiving countries are based on sedentary models, excluding many migrants. By reviewing literature on social protection and migration from a transnational lens and providing examples mainly from a labour migration context from the global-south towards the global-north, we offer a comprehensive typology of institutions providing social protection to migrants and their families back home. The paper advances an emerging semi-formal social protection system, which combines informal elements migrants known from their origin countries, with private insurance schemes. This analysis contributes to re-thinking the development of an inclusive global social protection system for mobile populations.

Les avantages économiques de la migration pour les pays en voie de développement, par le biais d’envois de fonds, ont fait l’objet de recherches approfondies sur le lien entre la migration et le développement. Les envois de fonds sont utilisés pour des investissements productifs, mais aussi pour garantir la protection sociale des migrants et leurs familles, aux niveaux locaux et transnationaux, à travers des dispositions complexes, formelles et informelles. Cela est nécessaire parce que les pays d’où viennent les migrants ont souvent peu d’institutions officielles de protection sociale, tandis que les institutions officielles dans les pays d’accueil sont fondées sur des modèles sédentaires, excluant de nombreux migrants. En passant en revue la littérature sur la protection sociale et la migration à partir d’un point de vue transnational, et en fournissant des exemples provenant principalement du contexte de la migration de main-d’œuvre des pays du Sud vers les pays du Nord global, nous offrons une typologie complète des institutions fournissant la protection sociale aux migrants et à leurs familles. Ce document met en avant un système émergent de protection sociale, semi-officiel, qui associe les éléments informels que les migrants connaissent déjà dans leurs pays d’origine avec des régimes d’assurance privés. Cette analyse contribue à repenser le développement d’un système globale et inclusif de protection sociale pour les populations mobiles.

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This study was funded under FP7 Marie Curie Actions International Training Network ‘Transnational Migration, Citizenship and the Circulation of Rights and Responsibilities’ (project number PITN-GA-2013-608417).

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Correspondence to Ester Serra Mingot.

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Serra Mingot, E., Mazzucato, V. Mobile Populations in Immobile Welfare Systems: A Typology of Institutions Providing Social Welfare and Protection Within a Mobility Framework. Eur J Dev Res 29, 787–805 (2017).

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  • global social protection
  • formal social protection
  • informal social protection
  • semi-formal social protection
  • transnationalism
  • migration