Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Effects of Redistributive Conflicts on Immigrants

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Effects of Redistributive Conflicts on Immigrants

Article excerpt


In October 2010 German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared multiculturalism a failure. Merkel's comments come on the heels of the controversy over Thilo Sarrazin's comments regarding the negative impact Muslims have on the German welfare state. In a recently released study the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung found that thirty percent of Germans agree that foreigners come to Germany to exploit the welfare state, that there are too many foreigners in Germany and that the number of foreigners in Germany is dangerous. These attitudes persist, in spite of countervailing evidence showing that the number of foreign born in Germany has remained stable, even falling almost imperceptibly. [Insert Table 1 about here] The perception on the part of Germans regarding the exploitation of the welfare state by immigrants may be illustrative of redistributive conflicts that occur within welfare states. The conflict over distribution and redistribution may lead to the exclusion of immigrants from not only social benefits to which they may be entitled, but to other forms of exclusion, including exclusion from the labor market. This paper presents a discussion of social exclusion, how such exclusion may violate the welfare state principles of social justice, and the ways in which the conflict over redistribution negatively affects immigrants in Germany.

This paper will begin with a discussion of what social exclusion is, how exclusion violates the principles of social justice, why the structure of the welfare state contributes to or limits exclusion, how redistributive conflicts are structured, and finally what are the implications these issues have for immigrants in society.

Social Exclusion

Concepts of social exclusion are important because these concepts can lead us to identify those most at risk in society and to help determine whether public policy reinforces and /or expands social exclusion. It is important also in terms of the health of society at large. The definition of social exclusion is disputed. It is necessary however to establish some understanding of what we mean by social exclusion as different from exclusion based on employment status or poverty. Frequently social exclusion is treated as a consequence of unemployment and viewed through labor market approaches in research (Deakin et al. 1995). However, unemployment is only one part of the larger issue of social exclusion. It is generally agreed that social exclusion is a multidimensional phenomenon; therefore it is also multifaceted and complicated. The larger issue of social exclusion includes not only employment but also exclusion from housing, healthcare, and political rights (Raveaud and Salais 2001).

Large-scale exclusion implies that "people, although they are being cared for, no longer have an obligatory commitment to an important social institution" (Steijn et al. 1998, 16). This undermines social institutions, and may be compounded by perceptions on the part of nonrecipients that individuals are taking advantage of welfare services to which they are not entitled, leading to a further lack of confidence in institutions. Most advanced industrialized countries have persons living on the fringes of society, outside traditional labor and social patterns. These marginalized persons may be excluded from participation in labor and social markets for a variety of reasons that may include, but are not limited to social welfare policies pursued by governments and their unintended consequences. How to distribute to and/or integrate these marginalized populations is an important issue to welfare states because those marginalized persons are frequently reliant on government for some form of social assistance.

According to Vleminckx and Berghman (2001) social exclusion has four main characteristics. The first, "social exclusion implies one is not like others in the society in which one lives"; second, that social exclusion is multidimensional, exclusion in one dimension, i. …

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