Migrant Workers or Working Women? Comparing Labour Supply Policies in Post-War Europe

Forthcoming in Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis (access article)


Why did some European countries choose migrant labour to expand their labour force in the decades that followed World War II, while others opted for measures to expand female employment via welfare expansion? The paper argues that gender norms and left power resources were important structuring factors in these choices. Female employment required a substantial expansion of state intervention (e.g childcare; paid maternity leave). Meanwhile, migrant recruitment required minimal public investments, at least in the short term, and preserved traditional gender roles. Using the contrasting cases of Sweden and Switzerland, I argue that the combination of a weak left (labour unions and social-democratic parties) and conservative gender norms fostered the massive expansion of foreign labour and a late development of female labour force participation in Switzerland. In contrast, more progressive gender norms and a strong labour movement put an early end to guest worker programs in Sweden, and paved the way for policies to promote female labour force participation.

Keywords: labour migration; female employment; Sweden; Switzerland; comparative public policy

I am hiring two PhD researchers

The Institute of Public Administration of the Faculty Governance and Global Affairs – Leiden University invites applications for

PhD positions with a particular focus on the relationship between social protection and immigration control (Vidi-Project “The Borders of Equality”) (2 positions of 1.0 FTE)
Vacancy number 18-332

Project description
The PhD candidates will work in the project “Borders of Equality: welfare states and immigration policies in comparative and historical perspective”. This project is funded by a large-scale research grant (Vidi) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research awarded to Dr Alexandre Afonso (Principal Investigator). The project analyses the relationship between the evolution of welfare states and labour migration policies in Western Europe between 1870 and now.

The project addresses the following questions: do countries with larger welfare states also enforce stricter immigration policies? When do governments enforce stricter migration policies but provide equal access to welfare for migrants (closure with equality), and when do they enforce liberal immigration policies but restrict their rights to welfare (openness with segmentation)? The project adopts a comparative and historical approach, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. It draws on longitudinal case studies going back to the late 19th century and the origins of both welfare states and migration control. It combines this with a quantitative analysis of policies across OECD countries, and focusses on different policy levels (countries and welfare programmes). More information on the project can be found at

Each PhD student will seek to answer one of two distinct research questions
1) Do different types of welfare states generate different incentives for governments to restrict immigration? (PhD candidate 1).
2) Why are some welfare programmes (pensions, social assistance, unemployment, health) more closed or more open to immigrants? (PhD candidate 2).
This project will be based in the Institute of Public Administration in the center of The Hague (Wijnhaven).

Key responsibilities

  • Conduct original research and complete a PhD-thesis in the thematic framework of the wider project;
  • Contribute to data collection and analysis for the wider project team, in particular: analyse archives and other written sources; build datasets, and conduct interviews in 4 countries (United Kingdom; Germany; France; Sweden);
  • Participate in national and international academic research networks;
  • Present research results at national and international conferences;
  • Publish in international academic journals, both individually and together with the colleagues from the Vidi-project team;
  • Actively disseminate research findings to key stakeholders and the public via seminars, blogs, vulgarization articles and social media;
  • Perform a limited set of teaching and supervision tasks within the Institute of Public Administration.

Selection criteria

  • Candidates must hold a Master or equivalent degree in public administration, political science, economics, sociology, history or another relevant field in the social sciences (candidates who will complete their degree before October 2018 will also be considered);
  • We particularly encourage applications from candidates with a substantive interest (and research experience) in comparative political economy, public policy, immigration and the welfare state;
  • Excellent qualitative and/or quantitative methodological skills;
  • An excellent command of spoken and written English (command of the Dutch language is not a prerequisite for applying); fluency in French, German and/or Swedish is a plus;
  • Capacity and willingness to collaborate in a motivated research team.

Our Faculty/Institute
The Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs offers academic education in the field of Public Administration, Safety and Security, and International Relations, as well as in-depth post-academic programmes for professionals. In addition, the Faculty is also home to the Leiden University College. For more information, see

The Institute of Public Administration is one of the largest and oldest institutes of academic research and teaching in the field of public administration and public policy in the Netherlands. The institute combines a solid international academic reputation with a central positioning among the international, national, regional and local governance institutions of The Hague. The Institute of Public Administration has consistently received high ratings in peer reviews of both its teaching and research programs. The Institute offers a Dutch-language Bachelor program with two tracks, a Dutch-language Master Program in Public Sector Management, and English-language Master programs in ‘Public Administration’. The Institute of Public Administration is located in the center of The Hague. Information about the Institute can be found at Information about Dr Alexandre Afonso and the Borders of Equality project is available at

Terms and conditions
These are 4-year fixed-term positions. We offer a fixed-term post for a period of one year with an extension of 3 years after positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility. Ultimately the appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The gross salary ranges from €2,266 per month in the first year up to €2,897 in year 4 (Pay Scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at

All our PhD candidates are embedded in the graduate school of the Netherlands Institute of Government ( The graduate school offers a combination of courses and tutorials, which aim at increasing disciplinary knowledge and methodology. The project in which the positions are embedded can also fund further methodological training.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

The PhD theses will be supervised by Dr Alexandre Afonso in collaboration with Professor Olaf van Vliet. If you have any enquiries about the position or the application procedure, please contact Dr. Alexandre Afonso at email

Applications should include

  • A motivation letter indicating a preference for one of the two research questions.
  • A CV;
  • A grade report;
  • 2 writing samples in English (MA thesis, term paper or publication);
  • The names and email addresses of two referees (who may be contacted during the selection process).

Applications must be received no later than 15 September 2018 and can be sent by email to our Personnel Department at with vacancy number in the subject.




Which leagues are the main suppliers of players at the World Cup?



The graph above represents a network of countries qualified for the World Cup 2018 and football leagues where players play. To draw it, I have used the official list of the 738 players qualified, and used it to draw a two-mode network where the countries they play for are the source, and the leagues where they play are the targets. Nodes are sized by the total number of players playing in each league, and each arrow indicates the number of players from each country playing in each league (you can click to get a bigger version). Not that many surprises here: The English premier League is the largest supplier with 124 players (almost 17 percent of all players!), followed by the Spanish Liga (81), the Bundesliga (67) and the Serie A (58, in spite of the fact that Italy is not qualified).


The party systems of 12 European countries in 2018, in one chart.


Data from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey 2018 has just been released. I have made the graph above using the data and using the usual two axes: left-right on the economy, and liberal/authoritarian.

Welfare States and the Birth of Immigration Control

How has the emergence and transformation of welfare states influenced immigration policies? Assuming that there is a trade-off between social rights and openness, has the expansion of welfare states over time led to a greater need for governments to control access via immigration control or restrictions on migrant rights? The transition from minimal state and open borders in the period 1870-1914 to the take-off in social spending and restrictive immigration policy in the period that followed points in this direction. However, can the causal link between these two policy domains be proven empirically? In this talk given at the LIMS seminar at Leiden University on March 14, 2018, I present some data and hypotheses on this connection.

Flipping the Classroom in Political Science Research Methods

Today we have the first post in a series on building a flipped course by Natascha van der Zwan and Alexandre Afonso. Both are assistant professors at the Institute of Public Administration at Leiden University, the Netherlands. 709 more words

via Flipping the Research Methods Classroom, Part 1 — Active Learning in Political Science ©

Share of people who think that jobs should be reserved for men when jobs are scarce.



From the European Social Survey 2010. Hungary, the only country where a majority of people think that jobs should be reserved for men.

Est-ce que la radiotélé publique survivrait à NoBillag?

Les défenseurs de l’initiative No billag ne veulent plus admettre qu’ils souhaitent supprimer la radio et télévision publiques en Suisse. Le problème, c’est que les programmes de la RTS sont populaires, contrairement à l’organisme qui collecte les fonds pour les financer. Le sondage Iakom montre que les programmes publics en Suisse sont systématiquement mieux notés que les offres privées pour ce qui concerne la professionnalité, le contenu de l’information ou la neutralité des programmes (Figure ci-dessous). En 2011, un sondage montrait également que 64% des sondés étaient satisfaits des programmes de la télévision publique, et 74% de la radio. Le pourcentage de satisfaction des médias privés était bien plus bas.

Capture d_écran 2018-02-09 à 16.37.11
Niveau de satisfaction avec les programmes publics et privés (1=très mauvais; 5= excellent). En Bleu= Suisse Romande.

Face à ce constat, les initiants affirment maintenant que les personnes qui veulent les programmes de la RTS pourraient les financer sur une base volontaire, sans la contrainte de la redevance obligatoire. Il faut noter qu’il ne pourrait pas y avoir d’autre financement public fédéral de quelque sorte: le texte de l’initiative l’interdit expressément.

La question est de savoir si ce système purement volontaire fonctionnerait. En théorie, tout le monde payerait pour ce qu’il consomme. Puisque les suisses sont satisfaits des programmes de la RTS, pourquoi ne payeraient-ils pas d’eux-mêmes? En pratique, c’est très peu vraisemblable. C’est un phénomène que l’on connaît bien en économie: tout le monde veut toujours jouir de services sans en avoir à en payer le prix. On appelle ça le “dilemme de l’action collective”.

Ainsi, tout le monde veut de l’énergie électrique pas chère, mais personne ne veut habiter près d’une centrale nucléaire ou d’un dépôt de déchets radioactifs. Tout le monde veut pouvoir bénéficier d’une transplantation en cas d’accident mais nous avons un déficit chronique de donneurs d’organes. Il y a une myriade d’exemples qui prouvent que même si une majorité d’individus désirent un service ou un bien public, chacun va essayer de minimiser sa propre contribution, soit par choix délibéré, soit pas inertie, paresse ou manque de temps. C’est précisément pour cela que l’on a un système d’assurance maladie obligatoire. Aux Etats-Unis, où le système n’était pas obligatoire jusqu’à Obamacare, on a une masse très important de personnes non assurées mais qui utilisent tout de même les services de santé en situation d’urgence. Le résultat: le système Américain sans obligation est le plus cher des pays avancés. Ainsi, ce n’est pas parce qu’une masse d’individus bénéficieraient collectivement de quelque chose qu’il vont contribuer à le produire. C’est triste, mais c’est extrêmement normal.

Si la redevance TV devenait volontaire, il est très peu vraisemblable que la RSR puisse générer le même niveau de revenu et assurer les mêmes prestations, parce que des programmes d’information nationale et locale en 4 langues sont très chers à produire. Puisque la base de contributeurs diminuerait presque certainement, la redevance devrait augmenter sur une base plus petite de contribuables, rendant le système insoutenable. Alternativement, il devrait y avoir une augmentation considérable de la publicité. Contrairement à un système de souscription comme Netflix, qui peut vendre ses programmes dans des centaines de pays, des programmes comme Infrarouge ou Arena, ou les infos locales jurassiennes, ont une base de marché très petite. L’offre telle que nous la connaissons serait drastiquement réduite, et la satisfaction des téléspectateurs diminuerait certainement également. A ma connaissance, il n’y a aucun système de télévision publique qui est financé selon ce modèle.

La disparition ou la réduction massive de la SSR pourrait-elle être compensée par une offre privée? Pour savoir à quoi un système médiatique audiovisuel complètement privé ressemblerait, on peut penser à deux exemple: presse écrite suisse et la télévision américaine.

On sait bien ce qui s’est passé au cours des quinze dernière années dans la presse romande, où il n’y a pas d’acteur public: dans un marché petit marqué par le déclin des revenus publicitaires, la plupart des éditeurs romands ont été avalés par des mammouths alémaniques (Tamedia). Le feu Matin Bleu a été mangé par 20 Minutes qui recycle ses articles en allemand, le reste étant rédigé par des stagiaires. L’Hebdo a fermé ses portes, et le Matin, jadis le premier quotidien romand, va certainement enterrer son édition papier. Sur la ligne de touche, Christoph Blocher a racheté un bon nombre de journaux alémaniques avec une stratégie politique peu voilée.

Le deuxième exemple est la télévision américaine, où les grands réseaux privés (Fox, CNN, NBC) dominent les audiences sans interférence publique. Le résultat, ce sont des chaines hyper-politisées qui fonctionnent essentiellement en vase clos avec des profils idéologiques extrêmement marqués. Certains mettent en avant le role de la télévision dans le processus de polarisation qui a rendu la politique américaine si toxique au cours des dernières années. On ne saurait imaginer ce que ce genre de système dans un pays divers comme la Suisse pourrait créer.

Les arguments libertariens des pro-No Billag évoquent la liberté de choix comme argument, mais le monde dans lequel leurs utopies fonctionnerait n’existe malheureusement pas.



To be less dependent on immigration, Britain must change its model of capitalism

The British economy is structurally dependent on migrant workers because it is lightly regulated and depends heavily on domestic demand, write Alexandre Afonso and Camilla Devitt. They explain why less immigration will require a greater role for the state.

The desire to lower immigration has been one of the main drivers behind the Brexit vote. Now, Theresa May’s cabinet has signaled its resolve to cut down numbers significantly, a longstanding pledge that the Conservatives had failed to make good on up to recently. With Brexit becoming a reality, however, the UK can expect lower inward migration, and numbers have been falling already.

Reduced immigration will be due to the restrictions on free movement the government will put in place and weaker economic growth (Britain has grown at a much slower rate than any other major economy in 2017). A number of EU citizens faced with uncertainties about their status will also probably leave. For the British economy, less immigration will be problematic because it has come to structurally depend on it at both ends of its labor market, mostly due to its liberal and demand-driven economic model.

In a recent article in the Socio-Economic Review, we argue that different varieties of capitalism – how the economy is organised across countries – generate different levels of demand for migrant workers. In this perspective, the UK displays features that make it especially dependent on migrant labour. The UK combines the features of a so-called Liberal Market Economy (with low employment protection, a lightly regulated labour market, and a large low-wage sector) and a consumption-led growth model (which depends heavily on domestic household consumption and population growth rather than exports). These institutional features have strengthened demand for migrant workers to compensate for mismatches and imbalances in the socio-economic regime.

First, the British economy is a demand-led economy which relies to a greater extent on domestic consumption than export-led economies such as Germany. The UK draws to a greater extent on population growth and increasing house prices. Unlike Germany, where exports of goods and services represented 46% of GDP in 2016, this share was only 28% in the UK. Another major difference is population growth: between 2006 and 2016, the British population has grown at a much higher rate than the EU average: 0.75% per year against 0.3% (0.3% for Germany). Immigration accounts for more than half of this growth, and reducing the number of people coming into the country (and consuming goods and services) will inevitably weaken what had become an important driver of growth.

This is important because apart from financial services, Britain’s export performance appears to be too weak to compensate for a smaller domestic demand. While Germany still has a strong export-oriented manufacturing base, the United Kingdom relies more heavily on services, not only high-skilled (e.g finance) but also low-skilled sectors (retail, cafés, restaurants, personal and social services) and the construction sector. These sectors depend to a larger extent on migrant workers, especially in low-paid employment. For instance, 41% of packers, bottlers, canners, and fillers in the UK are EU nationals, and so are 26% of cleaners and housekeepers.

Second, because of the liberal nature of the labour market, there is a comparatively high number of low-paying jobs that natives are reluctant to take up. About 20% of jobs in Britain are low-paid (that is, they are paid less than two-thirds of gross median earnings) while this percentage is only about 10% in France and 8% in Denmark. The turn to austerity pursued by the Conservative government may have paradoxically increased this demand for low-wage migrant workers. In social care, for example, pressure for cost containment due to austerity has led to a deterioration of working conditions, and migrant workers are often the only ones who accept the low wages and asocial working hours that these jobs entail.

In sum, the British economy offers many low-paying jobs that natives, due to higher expectations, are reluctant to accept. This mismatch is filled by migrant workers. Catering, construction and care – all domestic services sectors which had come to depend heavily on EU workers – have now all reported difficulties in finding labour in the aftermath of Brexit.

Third, the dependence on EU migration has also been accentuated by decades of deregulation which have lowered incentives for firms to produce skills domestically. This is a classic collective action problem: in order to have an adequate supply of skills, firms need to cooperate and pool resources to train new workers. However, it may be selfishly more expedient to let other firms train workers and then “poach” them without paying for training. If everybody is rational, no workers are trained.

A case in point is the construction sector, which has come to rely heavily on EU workers to compensate for the lack of domestic skills. Faced with fierce competition on costs, large-scale subcontracting and the widespread use of “bogus” self-employment, companies have been reluctant to invest in training workers, and the workforce is less skilled than its equivalents in other European countries. Naturally, it has been easier for firms to draw on the skills of workers trained abroad, especially from Poland or other Eastern European countries.

Once again, EU workers have been used to plug the mismatch between the demand and supply of skills in the British labour market, and many British firms have been free-riding on skills produced abroad. This situation is not new. The NHS is a case in point: in 1971 already, 31% of all doctors working in the NHS in England were born and qualified overseas.

There has been a fundamental contradiction in the combination of economic liberalism and hostility to immigration that has characterised Conservative policies in recent years, because austerity and free market economics tend to bolster demand for immigrants. In fact, countries which experience lower levels of immigration (e.g France) are also much more interventionist in economic policies, have larger public sectors, and higher taxes. Coping with lower immigration will most probably require a greater role for the state in training and regulation to solve the labour mismatches that immigration was solving up to now. The more interventionist tone of the last Tory manifesto may be a sign of this reorientation.

Originally posted on the LSE’s British Politics and Policy Blog.

The Power of Economists in Government

My excellent colleague Johan Christensen has a new book out with Stanford on the power of economists in government. I talk to him about it here for the podcast we made for my research methods class with Natascha van der Zwan. New episodes will be up soon.

%d bloggers like this: