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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Transnational Lives in the Welfare State (TRANSWEL)

Alternative title: Transnasjonale liv i velferdsstaten (TRANSWEL)

Awarded: NOK 11.2 mill.

Project Number:

236962

Application Type:

Project Period:

2014 - 2024

Funding received from:

Location:

Subject Fields:

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An increasing number of people live partly in one country and partly in another, leading what can be called transnational lives. This way of living entails both benefits and challenges for individuals and states alike. The TRANSWEL project has examine lives that are led partly within and partly outside two Northern European welfare states: Norway and the Netherlands. We explicitly included both natives and immigrants, such as native Norwegians who live part of the year by the Mediterranean, and immigrants to Norway who live part of the year in their country of origin. We were interested in how they organize their transnational lives, and how they experience the interaction with institutions of the Norwegian welfare state. The TRANSWEL project addressed four questions. We first asked who prefers to live transnationally and why. Second, we explored how people lead transnational lives in practice. We then addressed the encounter between the institutions of the welfare state and people who lead transnational lives. Finally, we asked how the welfare state should approach the benefits and challenges of transnational living. The project methodology combined survey data, ethnographic interviews and document analysis. The research team carried out approximately 100 interviews with people who can be said to live in two countries. In addition, fieldwork was carried out in different parts of the Norwegian Social Welfare Administration (NAV) that is deal with users who live partly abroad. Interviews with people who currently lead transnational lives showed a striking diversity of motivations and practices of not living in one country. Our effort to define and describe transnational living had to accommodate this diversity. We concluded that transnational living can be defined as having sustained and similarly significant attachments, interactions, and presences in two or more societies separated by national borders. This is a new definition rooted in the project's empirical and theoretical work. Analysis of survey data among immigrants showed that a large proportion wish to lead transnational lives in the future, not returning full-time to their countries of origin, but living partly in each country. Even if a relatively small proportion of people manage to overcome the obstacles to transnational living, it is, in other words a prominent scenario in people's minds. Fieldwork and interviews among bureaucrats in the Norwegian welfare administration provide valuable perspectives on the diverse group on people who relate to the national welfare system while leading transnational lives. Transnationally mobile people entitled to Norwegian social security benefits include both foreigners and Norwegians. They regularly cross international borders, or stay in other countries, while receiving Norwegian pensions, unemployment benefits, child benefits or other benefits. While export of benefits and so-called 'welfare tourism' is often criticised in public debates, welfare state bureaucrats are less concerned with cross-border social security. In general, bureaucrats find that people's behaviour when negotiating transnational mobility and national welfare is likely to be affected by welfare regulations. The bureaucrats employ an inclusive approach to cross-border social security. Within NAV, however, the organisational foundations for better accommodating transnational clients are weakened by insufficient infrastructure is lacking at the middle and upper levels of the organisation, and scant vertical collaboration. Case workers underscore how the multiple sets of legislation that regulate transnationals' social security entitlements make it difficult for the transnationals to understand and comply with the system. This project was based at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and carried out in collaboration with the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

[This appears to be related to the new application template; there was no specification of outcomes and impacts in the grant application form when this project was funded.]

An increasing number of people live partly in Norway and partly in another country, and thereby partly outside the Norwegian welfare state. The TRANSWEL project examines the implications of this phenomenon from the perspectives of individuals, and from the perspective of welfare state institutions. With an innovative approach, the project examines transnational living among immigrants and natives alike, comparing and contrasting their experiences and their encounters with the bureaucracy. This approach allows us to disentangle the implications of transnational living from the implications of immigration. We provide an international comparison between Norway and the Netherlands, both welfare states, but with slightly different welfare state models and different experiences of immigration and transnationalism. We first ask who prefers to live transnationally and why, and explore how transnational living is practiced. We then address the encounter between the institutions of the welfare state and people who lead transnational lives. Finally, we draw upon the empirical results and ask how the welfare state should approach the benefits and challenges of transnational living. The project methodology combines survey data, ethnographic interviews and document analysis. Three institutions form the project consortium: the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Seven researchers will collaborate in different constellations on the various parts of the project. The team members' experience includes authoring the most highly cited scientific article on transnationalism and integration, and chairing the Norwegian government-appointed Welfare and Migration Committee. The project will produce 9 articles for peer-reviewed journals and 5 policy briefs. These publications are complemented by an ambitious broader communication strategy.

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Funding scheme:

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon