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Caught between the local and the (trans)national EU citizens at the front-line of German welfare policy

Ratzmann, Nora (2019) Caught between the local and the (trans)national EU citizens at the front-line of German welfare policy. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Immigration has changed the composition of Germany's resident population, turning the country into one of the most ethnically diverse European countries. The pressure of changing demographics have brought to the forefront of public debate questions about who belongs, and who should get access to public resources. Against this backdrop, the research explores how administrative practices in local job centres construct inequalities in access to basic subsistence benefits. The study focuses on European Union migrant citizens who constitute one of the largest, yet overlooked immigrant groups in Germany. So far, scholarship has identified the various inequalities that shape EU migrant citizens' entitlements in law and policy, but has focussed less of how processes of implementation shape substantive access to benefits and services. To that end, the analysis explores the interplay between front-line bureaucrats as gatekeepers, who interpret and potentially subvert eligibility criteria, and EU migrants who engage or do not engage in a claim-making process, and how understandings of deservingness and belonging play into EU claimants' benefit access in practice. To address these processes, the research comprises of 119 qualitative interviews with key informants, job centre staff and EU migrant claimants, along with participant observation in three Berlin-based job centres. The data revealed how claims to benefits and services of EU migrant citizens are filtered at street-level. This happens through administrative practices of enabling or blocking access, entailing processes of bureaucratic discrimination against EU claimant groups when observed in marginal or no employment, especially if of Eastern European origin. The study explains the inequalities in access through the interplay between, first, streetlevel perceptions of EU citizens' social legitimacy in claiming German social-assistance type benefits or lack thereof, and, second, institutional constraints, such as the prevailing economic accountability logic, legal uncertainties or token diversity policies. The analysis unravels the implicit normative 'cultural conditionality' logic, which contributes to shaping the inequalities in access observed at the local level. Such ideas about socio-cultural adaptation find their expression in expectations of EU migrants to demonstrate belonging to substantiate their social entitlements, in the form of German language skills and acquiescence to dominant societal and bureaucratic norms. The findings contribute to an enhanced understanding of the links between social protection regulation and internal governance processes of EU migration, by highlighting how welfare administrators are involved in shaping the settlement of EU migrants in a borderless European space.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Nora Ratzmann
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Shutes, Isabel and Dean, Hartley

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