Providing social protection to mobile populations: symbiotic relationships between migrants and welfare institutions.

Ester Serra Mingot*, Valentina Mazzucato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Studies on migration and social protection have shown that a lack of
access to formal welfare in receiving countries leads migrants to rely
on their informal social networks for support. This paper argues that
such clear-cut dichotomies between formal and informal social
protection systems ignore the manners in which both welfare-
state institutions and migrants work together at the interstices of
the formal and informal to cater to national and transnational
social protection needs. Based on empirical data collected during
14 months of multi-sited and partially matched-sample ethnography
with Sudanese families across the Netherlands and Sudan, this
paper investigates how migrants sometimes enter into symbiotic
relationships with different welfare-state institutions, such as
municipal offices, non-governmental organisations and other
immigration institutions, which in turn rely on the support of
these migrants to provide social protection to people who would
otherwise escape their purview. While these interplays allow
migrants, who are sometimes undocumented, to informally
participate in the formal social protection system, such practices
are embedded within power relationships that are at times risky,
especially for migrants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2127-2143
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number13
Early online date28 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Transnational social protection;
  • transnational families
  • Sudan
  • The Netherlands
  • migrant families
  • Transnational social protection
  • Netherlands

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