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The Problem of Dependency: Immigration, Gender, and the Welfare State



This article discusses the regulation of marriage migration to Norway through an analysis of the subsistence requirement rule which entails that a person who wants to bring a spouse to Norway must achieve a certain level of income. Policy-makers present two main arguments for this regulation. First, the subsistence requirement is a means to prevent forced marriage. Second, its aim is to prevent family immigrants from becoming a burden on welfare budgets. The major concern of both these arguments is that of dependency, either on the family or on the welfare state. The article investigates the representations of the “problems” underpinning this specific policy proposal and argues that the rule in question, and immigration policy more generally, needs to be analyzed with reference to the broader concerns and aims of welfare state policy and gender equality policy.
The Problem of Dependency: Immigration, gender and the
welfare state.
This article discusses the regulation of marriage immigration to Norway through an
analysis of the subsistence requirement, a rule entailing that a person who wants to bring a
spouse to Norway must achieve a certain level of income. Policy makers present two main
arguments for this regulation. First, the subsistence requirement is a means to prevent forced
marriage. Second, its aim is to prevent family immigrants from becoming a burden on welfare
budgets. The major concern of both these arguments is that of dependency, either on the
family or on the welfare state. The article investigates the problem representations
underpinning this specific policy proposal and argues that the rule in question and
immigration policy more generally, should be analysed in relation to the broader concerns and
aims of welfare state policy and gender equality policy.
Patterns of marriage and immigration are intertwined; a central feature of the changing
marriage patterns in Norway over the last decades is a substantial increase in marriages
involving at least one person with an immigrant background. Moreover, marriage migration
constitutes a substantial share of the total immigration to Norway (Daugstad 2008).1 The
spouse of a person who has legally settled in Norway has the right to family immigration as
long as certain conditions are met.2 One key condition here is to have a means of subsistence.
This is a requirement for all immigration. Up until now, the immigration regulations have
allowed functionaries to take the spouses’ joint income into consideration when making
decisions on family immigration cases. After a new immigration act went into effect in 2010,
however, the requirement must be met solely by the spouse already settled in Norway. This
article investigates the regulation of family immigration to Norway, and it analyses the
arguments policy makers present for this recent change in the subsistence requirement. The
two main arguments concern the prevention of forced marriage and the need to avoid burdens
on the welfare state caused by immigration. The first argument, about prevention of forced
marriages, places the subsistence requirement within the context of a highly relevant and
much debated issue throughout contemporary Europe (Bredal 2005; Fair 2010; Hagelund
2008; Myrdahl 2010; Phillips 2007; Roggeband and Verloo 2007; Schmidt et al. 2009; Wray
2008). The second argument is related to the assumed welfare dependency of foreigners,
which has become a central topic in public debates on integration and immigration (Morissens
and Sainsbury 2005, 637). These two arguments define the premises of the debate and reflect
its dominant framing within the Norwegian context, but, as we will see, alternative arguments,
challenging the dominant representations, are also found.
A topic in much welfare-state policy research is the relationship between work/welfare
and autonomy/dependency. Feminist theorists who study the welfare state have focused on the
gendered aspects of welfare state policy and highlighted how different family models, or
breadwinner models, have different consequences with regard to men and women’s
autonomy. This article poses two research questions: 1) What forms of dependency are
presumed and created by the subsistence requirement and what are the consequences of this
for cross-national couples in Norway?3 2) With respect to the issues that the changes of the
subsistence requirement are meant to address: what is the problem represented as being?4 The
data I have used to answer these questions consists of two documents: first, Odelsting
proposition no. 75 (Arbeids- og inkluderingsdepartementet AID 2007) is the proposal for a
new immigration act. In Norwegian this act is referred to as the Lov om utlendingers adgang
til riket og deres opphold her (Utlendingsloven) of May 15, 2008, but for sake of ease, I will
refer to it as the “new immigration act”. My second source for data is the official record of the
parliamentary debate on this proposal. The subsistence requirement will function as a prism
for examining how dependency is presented as a problem within Norwegian gender equality
policies, welfare policies and immigration policies, and the Norwegian case will be discussed
in relation to the wider Scandinavian and European context.
First, I present the law proposal and the public debates that ensued in the process of
preparing the new immigration act. I then introduce my methodological approach and follow
it up with a presentation of research on international immigration, welfare states and gender
that inform the empirical analysis of the subsistence requirement for family immigration. This
is followed by analysis and a discussion of what it means to be independent from the state and
the family within the context of marriage immigration. The analysis primarily focuses on how
the government argues for changes the subsistence requirement, but it also pays attention to
oppositional voices inside and outside the parliament. By inquiring into whose independence
the subsistence requirement is meant to secure, I analyse the gendered aspects of this
regulation by drawing on literature on welfare state regimes, gender regimes and immigration
regimes (e.g. Apitzsch et al. 2007; Borchorst and Siim 2010; Esping-Andersen 1999;
Langvasbråten 2008; Lister 2009; Morissens and Sainsbury 2005; Sümer 2009).
A New Norwegian Immigration Act – case and methods
A new Norwegian immigration act came into force in January 2010. The process of
passing this new law was initiated almost ten years ago, when the Ministry of Local
Government and Regional Development, in 2001, appointed a committee to report on the
regulation of immigration. The committee’s mandate was to modernize the current
immigration act in accordance with the challenges caused by increased immigration. In 2004,
the government-appointed committee submitted the white paper Ny utlendingslov (Norges
Offentlige Utredninger NOU 2004: 20) and then, the white paper was sent on a public hearing
to a number of organizations and institutions.5 The immigration act was presented in 2007
(AID 2007) and the parliament debated the bill in April 2008 (Odelstinget 2008). In the fall of
2008, the specific changes in the subsistence requirement were sent on a public hearing and
13 organizations and public institutions commented on the issue. The new Immigration Act of
15 May, 2008 has now replaced the old Immigration Act of 24 June, 1988.
The regulation of family immigration and, in particular, the means to prevent forced
marriages, received more public attention than most other legislative discussions (Myrdahl
2010). Through personal stories presented by the media, the issue of forced marriage has
become a public concern in Scandinavia throughout the past two decades (see Bredal 2005).
During this period, Denmark has passed new legislation in order to reduce the number of
family immigrants and prevent forced marriages (Bredal 2005; Fair 2010). These Danish
regulations are discussed in the Norwegian white paper on the new immigration act, and
partly as a result of attention drawn to the issue by the media, the prevention of forced
marriage figure as a central concern in the document.
One proposal that in particular triggered extensive debate and controversy was the
suggestion that family immigration on the basis of marriage should, in order to prevent forced
marriages, not be allowed for persons under 21 years old. This proposed regulation, a parallel
to the Danish 24-year law passed a few years earlier led to an polarized public debate about
the extent of forced marriage and the adequate means to combat it (Bredal 2005; Hagelund
2008; Siim and Skjeie 2008; Skjeie and Teigen 2007). In the end, this particular proposal was
withdrawn from the bill, due to its highly controversial character. While the proposal for a 21
year age limit was discussed elaborately and received a lot of attention, no specific changes in
the subsistence requirement were considered in the white paper.
Although the old legislation did have a subsistence requirement, as a result of the new
immigration act, an application for family immigration to Norway must now include
documentation of income equivalent to civil service pay grade 8 (currently about €28.000 per
year). This requirement may be met by the reference person’s own earnings, personal funds, a
student loan or long term social security benefits (e.g., a permanent disability pension or old
age pension), but not by short term welfare benefits (UDI 2009). In addition to the income
requirement, the spouses must live together at the same address, and adequate housing must
be documented by a rental contract or home ownership. The legal regulation of family
immigrants varies between European states, but for most, having a place to live and a means
of subsistence are standard conditions for family immigration (European Migration Network
2008; Kofman 2004; SOPEMI 2000). Sweden is the only country in European where
family immigrants were not, until very recently, faced with any subsistence requirement
(European Migration Network 2008, 6; Hagelund 2008; Hansen 2006, 24;
Justitiedepartementet 2009).6
As mentioned introductorily, the data for this article is the law proposal for a new
Norwegian immigration act (AID 2007) and the parliamentary debate on the law proposal
(Odelstinget 2008). The analytical strategy I use to investigate this data is inspired by an
approach called “What is the problem represented to be?” developed by Carol Lee Bacchi
(1999; 2000; 2009). Bacchi positions herself in opposition to what she sees as conventional
approaches to policy studies which, she claims, present policies as attempts to solve problems.
In contrast, she suggests a refocus emphasizing the implicit or explicit diagnosis of the
“problem” that every policy proposal necessarily contains. Furthermore, she argues policy-
making is inherently contested and suggests to investigate the competing problem
representations (Bacchi 2009, 254). Bacchi draws on Foucauldian discourse analysis and
defines discourse as “language, concepts and categories employed to frame an issue” (Bacchi
1999, 2) and she argues that “the uneven power relations involved in the production of
discourses” should be considered (Bacchi 2009, 237).
Laws and legislation are taken as starting point for policy analysis (Bacchi 2009, ix).
The law proposal and the parliamentary debate under scrutiny here are public sources and
products of national policy-making institutions. Therefore, I see the analyzed documents as
being well suited for studying dominant public discourses. Furthermore, in addition to
expressing new policies on immigration, the texts reveal political processes of dispute and
compromise and contain competing problem representations that should also be investigated.
The parliamentary debate makes visible the political controversies articulated by the different
representatives in the parliament, and the law proposal makes reference to actors outside the
parliament, such as researchers, public institutions and interests organizations. The voices of
these organizations and institutions, that gave their responses to the proposed policy changes
during the public hearings, are briefly represented in the official documents but published in
their entirety at the web pages of the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion.
In line with Bacchi’s (1999) approach, I focus on the conceptions of “problem
representations” and investigate those that underlie the arguments for the subsistence
requirement, along with the presuppositions and assumptions lying behind the particular
policy proposal. Further, I look at the gaps and silences in the analysed texts, the re-
problematizations, the space for challenge and the signs of resistance (Bacchi 2009, 237-238).
Moreover, Bacchi (2009, 156-157) recommends that a policy analysis should transcend
national contexts and connect different policy areas, and other scholars have argued that
different national migration and integration policies are related to and should be studied
comparatively in connection with theories on welfare state regimes and gender regimes
(Apitzsch et al. 2007, 216; Borchorst and Siim 2010; Keskinen et al. 2009; Lister et al. 2007,
138-39; Lutz 2007; Morissens and Sainsbury 2005; Sainsbury 2006; Williams and Gavanas
2008). I therefore investigate the connections between how “the problem of dependency” is
represented in immigration policy, welfare state policy and gender equality policy.
Immigration, welfare and gender
Welfare and immigration are interrelated fields within research and policy, and a
debated question is whether immigration challenges or eventually undermines the modern
welfare state (Brochmann 2002; 2005; Hammar and Brochmann 1999; Kildal and Kuhnle
2005; Kjeldstadli 2003; 2008; Kymlicka and Banting 2006; Taylor-Gooby 2005). According
to Gösta Esping-Andersen's (1992; 1999) categorization of the European welfare states,
Norway has, as the other Scandinavian countries, a “social democratic” welfare state regime.
This regime is often presumed to be more generous towards immigrants than the “liberal” and
“conservative” regimes because universal rights are granted to all residents, immigrants
included (Kildal and Kuhnle 2005, 14; Morissens and Sainsbury 2005; Sainsbury 2006).7
Some argue that immigration may threaten the sustainability of these generous welfare states.
First, resources are always limited, and second, ethnic diversity is often perceived as a
potential threat to the social cohesion, trust and solidarity that uphold the welfare state
(Brochmann and Hagelund 2010). Despite being faced with similar challenges, there is
evidence that the social democratic countries follow rather different paths with regard to
immigration and integration policies (Borchorst and Siim 2010; Brochmann and Hagelund
2010; Hagelund 2008; Keskinen et al. 2009; Lister 2009; Morissens and Sainsbury 2005).
The concept of dependency figures into welfare, gender and immigration policies.
Within welfare discourse, paid labour is commonly seen as a precondition for autonomy,
while welfare is associated with dependency (Bacchi 2009, 60-65; Lødemel and Trickey
2001a). One of the major challenges welfare states must contend with is the increasing
expenses caused by too many people depending on welfare. Dependency is usually presented
as a problem and may involve an aspect of moral judgement (Dean 2004; Fineman 2004;
Lødemel and Trickey 2001b; Mead and Beem 2005; Pierson 2006; Schram 2006). In the
European Union directive on family immigration, “dependant” is the official term for a family
immigrant, and “sponsor” denotes the person with whom the prospective immigrant wants to
live (European Migration Network 2008, 12). Traditionally, sponsors have been presumed to
be men and dependant family immigrants have been presumed to be women or children
(Grillo 2008; King 2002; Kofman 2004). This assumption is related to global patterns of
gendered division of labour and the male-breadwinner model. Research on women and
immigration has questioned the assumption that women immigrate only as dependent family
members, for studies have shown that women also immigrate as workers and act as sponsors
(Walsum and Spijkerboer 2007).
Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon (1994) traces how the concept of dependency is used
in the historical context of the United States. Throughout modernity, the concept of
independence was strongly connected with the capacity for self-support through paid labour.
Wages implied that the worker had the ability to support a dependant wife and family. Since
the dual breadwinner family has now become the norm, a situation of dependency is no longer
required or even legitimate for either women or men. In post-modernity, dependency has
increasingly come to be seen as an individual personal trait instead of a social position of
subordination, and to be perceived as “dependent” has become more and more stigmatizing
(Fraser and Gordon 1994). The concept of welfare dependency is a topic of concern in many
liberal democracies (Bacchi 2009, 60), and an emphasis on “independence” and “self-
sufficiency” is evident in Norwegian policy discourse (Bøe and Wærness 2005; Syltevik and
Wærness 2004, 100).
Dependency in this context refers to people being economically dependent on their
families or the welfare state for subsistence. Women’s economic dependence on men has been
the central focus within feminist welfare state theory and gender equality policy (Leira 2002;
Lewis 1992; Orloff 2009; Sümer 2009). 50 years ago Norwegian women were expected to be
provided for by their spouses, and it was then that the male breadwinner model reached its
apogee (Hagemann 2006; Hagemann 2007; Leira 2002; Syltevik and Wærness 2004). This
model is characterized by a strictly gendered division of labour within the family: the male
wage earner provides for the family and the housewife works within the home and is excluded
from the labour market. The women’s movement challenged this family model and it has also
been heavily criticized by feminist scholars who study the welfare state. The male
breadwinner model has thus been modified to a varying extent over time and across Europe
(Sümer 2009).8 The Scandinavian welfare state is known to promote gender equality by
undermining the male breadwinner model (Hernes 1987; Leira and Ellingsæter 2006; Lister
2009). Here, individual rights are stressed, women’s labour-market participation is promoted
and consequently, a dual-earner, dual-career family model has replaced the male bread-winner
model (Esping-Andersen 1999, 18).
Liv Syltevik and Kari Wærness (2004) argue that there is a discrepancy between
norms and reality with regard to breadwinner models. Ideology has changed relatively
rapidly, from the male breadwinner model to a situation where men and women are held to be
individually responsible for providing for themselves. Meanwhile, the reality and practices of
Norwegian couples have not necessarily kept up with changing norms (Syltevik and Wærness
2004). Furthermore, most social benefits are given as individual rights, but marriage might
affect the individual’s right to certain benefits, and spouses have an obligation to support one
another. So despite individualism and norms of autonomy, where public policies are
concerned, marriage partners are sometimes treated as individuals but other times treated as a
single unit (Roseneil et al. 2008, 146).
The Arguments for the Subsistence requirement
According to the Norwegian Marriage Act of 7 April 1991 (including the latest
changes from 2009), persons over 18 years of age, of different or same sex, may enter into
marriage provided that both parties enter into it voluntarily. These are the main legal
requirements for a marriage between Norwegian citizens. Foreign citizens must in addition
obtain legal residency in Norway in order to marry under Norwegian law. The immigration
act regulates residence permits, and the three principal conditions for family immigration on
the basis of marriage are that the marriage must be formally legal, the couple must live
together and the marriage must be real (UNE 2008). According to the cardinal rules, a means
of subsistence and adequate housing are required for all immigrants, family immigrants
included. Means of subsistence as a condition for immigration is seen as a primary principle
for all immigration to Norway and is not limited to family immigration. The principle of self-
support is put forward as one of the main reasons for the general subsistence requirement
(AID 2007, 14).
In the parliamentary debate on the new immigration act, the Minister of Labour and
Social Inclusion (that is, the chief minister of AID) articulates two main objectives of the
subsistence requirement for family immigration based on marriage:
The aim of the subsistence requirement is that people who wish to bring a spouse to
Norway, and who are granted permission based on marriage, need to be economically
independent. This is important because the arriving spouse cannot automatically
expect to be supported by the state. But what is important with respect to forced
marriage is that the ability to resist such pressure might imply that the person becomes
estranged from her family. The ability to resist such pressure and even break with
one’s family will improve if the person is economically independent (Odelstinget
2008, 320 Bjarne Håkon Hansen, Labour Party).
Two central arguments are presented in this quote. First, family immigration on the
basis of marriage should not burden state budgets. This argument refers to the potential
economic costs of immigration. Second, a self-supporting person is seen to be better equipped
for resisting family pressure regarding whom to marry. Welfare dependency and forced
marriage are presented as two problems that the subsistence requirement is meant to target.
Throughout the history of immigration control there has always been a tendency to prevent or
promote immigration on the basis of economic means of subsistence (Fuglerud 2001, 101-
105). Forced marriage, however, adds new rationale to the subsistence requirement, since this
argument does not figure in the legislative history of the old immigration act
(Justisdepartementet 1987, 55-57). Unsurprisingly, there is consistency between how the
problem is presented by the minister in the parliamentary debate and how it is framed by the
Ministry in the law proposal:
The Ministry considers that out of consideration for the signal effects, it is desirable
that the law should contain a rule demanding that the prospective immigrant be
supported independently. […] The Ministry underscores that intensifying the
subsistence requirement could stimulate young people to become self-reliant through
work or education, and that this will make them more economically independent of
their families (AID 2007, 64-65).
This quote mentions an intensification of the subsistence requirement. These are some of
the most important changes in the new regulation:
Only the expected income of the reference person and not the expected income of the
immigrant should count as means of subsistence.
The reference person must not have received short-term welfare the year before the
residence permit is to be given.
The existing rule, which can wave the subsistence requirement for marriage partners
or cohabitants of Norwegian citizens over 23 years old (cf. §25, part 3), will be
repealed (AID 2007, 14 and 64).
While the old law allowed the spouses’ joint income to be taken into consideration, the
new regulation stipulates that the reference person must alone fulfil the subsistence
requirement. Furthermore, the change means that reference persons who have received short-
term welfare benefits are excluded from family immigration and that Norwegian reference
persons are no longer privileged with regard to the subsistence requirement. According to the
law proposal, all changes in the subsistence requirement are geared towards making sure that
the reference person is genuinely self-sustained on a long-term basis (AID 2007:65).
The arguments presented by the Minister of AID reflect the dominant framing of the
problem. In both the parliamentary debate and the law proposal for a new immigration act,
welfare dependency and forced marriage are presented as the problems the subsistence
requirement is supposed to solve. The law proposal is presented by a governmental coalition
consisting of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party. Representatives
from the Progress Party and The Conservative Party generally argue in favour of a stricter
subsistence requirement and thereby support the majority coalition on this issue. Some
representatives from the Liberal Party and The Christian Democratic Party question the
dominant framing of the subsistence requirement or oppose certain specific aspects of the
proposed changes in the regulation. So do the institutions and organizations that commented
on the intensification of the subsistence requirement in the public hearing. In the following
analysis, I will attend to both the dominant and alternative problem representations.
Independence from state support
When the general principle of means of subsistence is outlined, it is about sending a signal
that “as a main rule, those who seek to become residents of Norway must be self-supporting”
(AID 2007, 14). The emphasis on self-support gives resonance to the discourses of the “work
approach”. The concept of “work approach” denotes the idea that “passive support
associated with income maintenance policy should be replaced by an active linking of benefits
to work requirements, in order to make the claimant self-sufficient (Nilssen and Kildal 2009,
307). The new immigration act reinforces the principle of financial independence from the
state welfare system and is thus in line with the general “work approach” in Norwegian social
policy. Meanwhile, the changes in the family immigration regulations entail that only the
income of the reference person will be taken into account; the said individual becomes solely
responsible for the means of subsistence: “the reference person is responsible for securing
subsistence in order to be ready to receive the person with whom he or she wishes to establish
a family” (Odelstinget 2008, 296 Bent Høie, Conservative Party). The emphasis on the
reference persons’ responsibility to provide for the immigrant contradicts the wording of the
initial quote of this section, where it is stated that the immigrant should be self-sufficient. In
the context of family immigration, it is presented as a problem if the immigrant becomes
dependent on the welfare state for maintenance. As a solution to this presented problem,
“those who wish to bring a spouse to Norway (…) need to be economically independent”
(Odelstinget 2008, 320 Bjarne Håkon Hansen, Labour Party). Thus, in this context an
immigrant’s independence from state support means that the reference person should be self-
sufficient through paid work and thereby be able to provide for the spouse. Moreover, the
representative from the Labour Party and the representative from the Conservative party
frame the issue of subsistence in a very similar way. There seem to be a consensus between
left and right wing representatives on this particular issue: independence through labour
market participation should be a precondition for bringing a spouse to Norway.
The subsistence requirement does not apply to all groups. First of all, refugees do not need
to fulfil the subsistence requirement in order to bring their families to Norway:
There will be exceptions [from the subsistence requirement] for the families of
refugees who established a family life before coming to Norway (Odelstinget 2008,
293 Arild Stokkan-Grande, Labour Party).9
The exception for this group of reference persons is justified through international law.
A refugee has the right to protection and this protection should also include preservation of
the unity of the family, access to work, education, accommodation and welfare services (AID
2007, 70). As a consequence, economic self-support and economic independence are not
requirements for this particular group. Interestingly, the discussions on refugees follow a
completely different line of argumentation than insisting on independence:
The new immigration act strengthens the legal status of persecuted persons. As such, it
perpetuates the strong Norwegian tradition of taking care of those who are weakest
(Odelstinget 2008, 293 Arild Stokkan-Grande, Labour Party).
Refugees are defined as “the weakest” and when speaking of this group, the potential
welfare burdens caused by immigration are no longer an issue. This resonates well with what
Anniken Hagelund (2003) writes about Norwegian political discourse on immigration:
immigration legislation involves moral and ethical concerns, where Norway is seen to have a
duty to help those who truly need it. In contrast to other groups who might not be able to
fulfill the subsistence requirement, policy makers do not demand that refugees achieve
economic independence and this illustrates how refugees are constructed as a group of truly
needy persons (Hagelund 2003). Accordingly, refugees are not represented as part of the
problem of dependency that the subsistence requirement is meant to target. Asylum seekers
granted residence permit on humanitarian grounds on the other hand, are not waived from the
subsistence requirement. In the public hearing, the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud
(LDO), The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) and the Professional Forum for
Municipal Refugee Work (ffkf) claim that this represents discrimination of people with a
residence permit on humanitarian grounds, and thus challenge the representation of this group
as less in need than people with refugee status.
A consequence of the new immigration act is that a reference person who has received
short term welfare benefits the year before the application is submitted will be excluded from
family immigration (AID 2007, 14, 64). Several other European countries have a similar
requirement, for instance Denmark (Hagelund 2008, 82), The Netherlands and Germany
(SOPEMI 2000, 117). Reference persons who are partly or totally dependent on welfare are
thus presented as a problem: “Receiving welfare benefits indicates that the person has not
been self-supported and therefore will not be able to provide for new family members” (AID
2007, 65). If a person is dependent on welfare, the immigration of a spouse is presumed to
imply that the spouse will become dependent on the state as well. Exclusion from family
migration due to short-time welfare benefits is characterized as “unreasonable” by voices
outside the parliament, who claim that such benefits might actually help people to become
economically independent in the long run (IMDi 2008). Instead of presenting short time
welfare benefits as a sign of dependency, this organization sees it as a means for economic
According to the old immigration act, the spouse of a Norwegian or a Nordic citizen
could be exempted from the subsistence requirement, and this exemption was practiced quite
liberally (AID 2008). According to the law proposal for the new immigration act, this
exemption will be removed and the subsistence requirement will apply to everyone,
“regardless of the reference person’s age, residence permit or citizenship” (AID 2007, 64).
This change in regulations implies a shift in the way the problem of welfare dependency is
presented: The majority of people who seek marriage immigration are in fact married to
ethnic Norwegians, hence, under the old regulation, the subsistence requirement was waived
for the majority of marriage immigrants. Norwegian citizens with immigrant backgrounds
were either presumed to lack the capacity for self-sufficiency through paid work to a greater
extent than ethnic Norwegian citizens, or the latter were generally thought to hold legitimate
positions of dependency (e.g., through having paid taxes most of their lives). The change in
the law shows that ethnic Nordic citizens are now being taken into account in the way the
problem of welfare dependency is represented. According to the UDI, this change is likely to
increase the number of rejected applications, as the rules now apply to more people.10
On one hand, this change in the subsistence regulation may be read as a movement
towards formal equality regardless of citizenship. On the other hand, the subsistence
requirement does not apply to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals or their spouses,
since they exercise their right to freedom of movement (AID 2007, 98-99; SOPEMI 2000,
115). The legitimacy of this exception for EEA nationals and their spouses is not questioned
by any participants in the parliamentary debate or in the hearing. In contrast to many other
immigration regulations, no arguments for or against this point were presented. There seems
to be no need for justification through argumentation, except for a reference to freedom of
movement and EEA regulations. Thus, the citizenship of the reference person still matters.
From this I argue that when the policy makers revoked the exception for Norwegian and
Nordic citizens from the subsistence requirement, rather than being a movement towards
formal equality, it became a means for compelling Norwegian and Nordic citizens to provide
for themselves through labour market participation.
According to the law proposal, an exception from the subsistence requirement can be
given to people undergoing long-term higher education (AID 2007, 65; AID 2008). In the
parliamentary debate, one of the representatives from the opposition offers the example of a
“Norwegian medical student in love with a boy from South Africa […] who has a job offer in
Oslo” (Odelstinget 2008, 305 Trine Skei Grande, Liberal Party). This example is used to
question the subsistence requirement; it is presented as being unreasonable that a Norwegian
student should need to fulfil the subsistence requirement in order to bring her boyfriend to
Norway. It seems evident to the speaker that this sort of case should not be circumscribed by
the subsistence regulations. Consequently, it is argued that the suggested means for
preventing forced marriages and welfare burdens are too broad. Due to her class position and
ethnicity, the ethnic Norwegian medical student would not fit the common understanding of a
victim of forced marriage, nor would her boyfriend be a typical welfare dependant. It seems
evident to the parliamentary representative that the Norwegian medical student does not
constitute part of “the problem” and consequently the parliament does make some exceptions
for students. I argue that this figure functions as a rhetorical tool for questioning the
tightening of the subsistence requirement because it illustrates how the intensifications will
impact other groups than those constituted as “the problem”. Further, it is an example of the
criticism that operates within the dominant representation of the problem, where welfare
dependency and forced marriage are the two main problems to be solved.
The following quote is an example of another type of criticism voiced in connection
with the issues and perceived problems the new regulations are meant to address:
I find that the increase in the subsistence requirement represents discrimination of
people with low incomes. […] The average income of persons with ethnic minority
backgrounds is less than the subsistence requirement. Furthermore, men earn more
than women (Odelstinget 2008, 302 Bjørg Tørresdal, Christian Democratic Party).
Here the problem is seen as involving discrimination, and class, gender and ethnicity
are explicitly treated as relevant dimensions of social inequality. Similar critique is presented
by organisations and institutions outside the parliament, responding to the public hearing.
They also emphasise the potentially discriminating and “unreasonable” effects of the
subsistence requirement (e.g. IMDi 2008; Juss-buss 2009; LDO 2008). Moreover, some of the
hearing responses indicate that the real problem is the government’s eagerness to prevent
immigration (Juss-buss 2009). Accordingly, some actors, both outside and inside the
parliament, offer a different interpretation of what constitutes “the problem”. These are ways
of framing the problem that diverges markedly from the two dominant problem
representations (welfare dependence and forced marriage). Further, it potentially challenges
the notion of dependency as the central problem.
Independence from parents
The subsistence requirement for family immigrants is, as we have seen, partly justified
as a way to prevent forced marriages: “The idea behind these means is that reference persons
who are unable to provide for themselves will be in a vulnerable situation with regard to
pressure from their families, because they are in a situation of economic dependence on their
parents” (AID 2007, 194). Consequently, it is argued, the subsistence requirement will
function to stimulate young people to pursue a situation of independence in both financial and
practical matters (AID 2007, 203). At this point one can rightly ask: Who are these reference
persons imagined to be, and in what kind of situation are they?
In the law proposal for the new immigration act (AID 2007, 191-203), the issue of
forced marriage is presented as a problem that concerns young Norwegian men and women
with ethnic minority backgrounds, whose parents might want to force them into marrying
partners from their (the parents’) home countries. “Bringing a spouse from the home country”
(AID 2007) is presented as a situation where forced marriage is a prominent risk. According
to the law proposal, forced marriage is a problem closely related to the practice of arranged
marriages, and arranged marriages between cousins are especially associated with force or
pressure. Pakistan in particular, but also Turkey, Iraq, Somalia, India, Morocco, Sri Lanka and
Afghanistan are listed as areas were the tradition of arranged marriage is commonly practiced
(AID 2007, 193). The problem of forced marriage is thus presented as a social problem for
Norway, due to immigration from these countries.
Forced marriage is further presented as a problem particularly concerning young
people (AID 2007, 191-197; KRD 2005b, 25-33). It is generally assumed that young people
above 21 years old are “more independent and mature” and hence more likely to be able to
resist pressure with regard to marriage (AID 2007, 202; NOU 2004: 20, 247). This line of
argumentation, regarding age, maturity and independence, was important for justifying the
proposed age limit for family immigration. A similar line of argumentation figured in the
Danish debate as a reason for the existing “twenty-foru year law” (Fair 2010). Such
arguments are not a new in Scandinavian legislative tradition; the marriage laws of the early
20th century had a relatively high minimum age for marriage and such regulations aimed at
securing that the woman should be an independent individual when entering into marriage
(Melby 2006, 148, 408). As mentioned earlier, the Norwegian government report for the new
immigration act suggested requiring both spouses to be above 21 years old as a condition for
family immigration, when marrying a person from outside the EEA area (NOU 2004: 20, 239-
250). Both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of such rules have been contested (Bredal
2005; Fair 2010; Hagelund 2008; Schmidt et al. 2009). Due to this criticism, the age limit for
family immigration was, in Norway as opposed to in Denmark, withdrawn from the final law
proposal for the new immigration act.
The way the problem of forced marriage is presented in the Norwegian debate is both
similar and different to that of Danish political discourse. In both contexts, forced marriage is
presented as a problem which concerns young women of ethnic minority background
marrying foreign citizens. Moreover, the arguments presented for the subsistence requirement
in the Norwegian context, namely prevention of forced marriage and the problem of welfare
dependency, are also in the Danish debate presented as the two major problems to address
(Fair 2010, 144). Anyhow, the Danish debate and legislation differed from the Norwegian one
in the sense that there is a more clear distinction between arranged and forced marriages in
Norwegian regulation and that Denmark has a more explicit aim to reduce family immigration
in general (Bredal 2005; Fair 2010; Hagelund 2008). In the Norwegian law proposal, the
problem of forced marriage is presented in the same way as in the preceding white paper, but
the solution is depicted differently, and the subsistence requirement now figures as an
important initiative for preventing forced marriage. In Norwegian legislation there has been a
shift in focus from maturity and age to independence through paid labour. Nevertheless,
presupposing that financial independence is normally correlated with age (AID 2007, 191-
197), the subsistence requirement may also be seen as an indirect way of regulating the
marriage age for cross-national couples, although the regulations are quite different than the
Danish twenty-four year law.
In the law proposal in question (AID 2007; KRD 2005b, 25-33), forced marriage is
not, to any considerable degree, framed as a gendered problem. It is mostly referred to as one
concerning young men and women with ethnic minority backgrounds. Nonetheless, I argue
that the issue of forced marriage does in fact seem to be framed as a gendered problem and a
gender equality concern, when the wider context of the law proposal is taken into account.
The question of gender is prominent in other law proposals, (KRD 2005a; KRD 2005b),
research (Bredal and Skjerven 2007) and in the National Action Plan against Forced Marriage
(BLD 2007, 9). In the public debate, combating forced marriage is presented as a concern
about gender equality and a question of minority women’s liberation (see for example Salimi
2004; Storhaug 1998). What is more, forced marriage is presented as a particular problem for
young women of Pakistani background. Such a woman risks being forced to marry a man
from Pakistan who might even be her cousin. Due to immaturity and economic dependence on
her parents, she does not have the capacity to refuse the marriage. The subsistence
requirement is connected to this. The regulation is meant to make sure that the young woman
of Pakistani background has her own income; it seeks to indirectly make sure that she has
reached a certain age and maturity before such a marriage is even possible. Insofar as the
subsistence requirement can only be met by the reference person, this also harmonizes with
the way the problem is described.
Income is associated with maturity and independence and functions as a precondition
for choice and personal freedom. Although some actors outside the parliament questions this
line of argumentation, claiming that labour market participation cannot reduce the use of force
in situations of forced marriage (LDO 2008), a close connection between autonomy and work
is the underlying logic of the arguments for the subsistence requirement. The strong
connection between women’s labour market participation, independence and equality of
gender is by no means unique for the specific debate about forced marriage. Access to the
labour market has also been a central focus of the women’s movement. It has for instance
been seen as a prerequisite for independence from men and thereby a precondition for
women’s autonomy and liberation (Danielsen 2008; Haukaa 1982). In comparative welfare
state theory, married women’s labour market participation is often regarded as a key indicator
of gender equality because it undermines the model of the male breadwinner solely supporting
a family (Esping-Andersen 1999; 2009; Lewis 2002; Sümer 2009). Working women are also
an important area of concern in Norwegian gender equality policies. The aim of the
subsistence requirement, following the line of argumentation concerning forced marriage,
seems therefore to promote the autonomy of young women of minority background through
economic independence and labour market participation.
Independence for whom? – A gender perspective
Bacchi recommends examining “the ways in which policy proposals produce
‘women’s equality’ as a particular kind of problem” (Bacchi 1999, 8). As we have seen,
gender is not a chief concern in the arguments for the subsistence requirement, the way it is
presented in the law proposal (AID 2007). The main distinctions in the analysed texts are the
distinction between reference persons and applicants and the different entry categories of
immigrants (labour migrants, family immigrants, asylum seekers etc.). The law proposal
mostly follows a seemingly gender-neutral language, as Nordic policy discourses usually do
(Lister 2009, 249). Nevertheless, in the context of forced marriage, the proposal renders
women’s equality as a particular kind of problem. Forced marriages and arranged marriages
not only threaten the autonomy and freedom of young women of minority backgrounds; they
also threaten gender equality as a value and norm: “[The] practice of arranged marriages may
be seen as a challenge to Norwegian ideals on freedom and [gender] equality” (AID 2007,
203). This quote presents gender equality as a particular Norwegian value. Gender equality as
a central aspect of national identity is evident also in Sweden (Dodillet 2009) and the
Netherlands (Roggeband and Verloo 2007), and may be seen as a feature of the self-
understanding of several European welfare states, in particular the Nordic welfare states
(Keskinen et al. 2009; Lister 2009).
At first sight, the general insistence on independence through earning one’s own living
seems to be in line with the general norms underpinning Norwegian welfare policy. At least
on an ideological level, economic independence through earning wages and individual
responsibility for subsistence are promoted as norms. The Scandinavian welfare states are
known to promote defamilialization, women’s labour market participation and to focus on
individual rights (Esping-Andersen 1999; 2009). The arguments concerning forced marriage
are in line with this tradition. With the recent changes, the subsistence requirement the can no
longer be fulfilled by other family members than the spouse, since it is to be met solely by the
reference person. Policy makers seek, through this means, to avoid family involvement in
marriages. They also seek to ensure that the young woman of minority background is actually
the sole breadwinner of the newly established family and to thereby radically undermine the
male breadwinner model.
The fact that the subsistence requirement is now to be met solely by the reference
person makes the family immigrant’s potential self-support through his/her own income
irrelevant in the application process. Only one of the organizations participating in the hearing
explicitly comments on this point. The legal aid organiation Juss-Buss claims that the
immigrant’s potential capacity for economic self-sufficiency should be recognized at the time
of application (Juss-buss 2009). However, from the point of view of the legislator, this change
is partly meant to benefit young Norwegian women with ethnic minority backgrounds.
Among the group of foreign spouses applying for family immigration with second generation
immigrants, six out of ten reference persons are women. Nevertheless, this target group
constitutes only 3% of the total number of marriage immigrants. When the entire population
of marriage immigrants is taken into account, we see that the vast majority of reference
persons are men, 40% being immigrants themselves. Of this group, 75% of the immigrant
spouses are women. 57% of reference persons are Norwegian citizens, and of this group, 70%
of the immigrant spouses are women (Daugstad 2008). The changes in the regulation will
affect all family immigrants, not only the female reference persons of the second generation
who are presented as the main target group. The subsistence requirement presupposes and
potentially reinforces immigrant spouse’s economic dependence on their partner. If this is the
case, when we take the entire population of cross-national couples into account –not only the
women regarded as potential victims of forced marriage a potential paradox surfaces: In
order to promote the independence of young Norwegian women with immigrant backgrounds,
a single breadwinner model is introduced as the basis for all applications for family
The critique of the single breadwinner model first developed in a context where it was
taken for granted that the sole family provider was a man. And in the context of contemporary
marriage immigration, the Norwegian reference person, who is supposed to be the family
provider, is indeed in most cases a man. However, the reference person may certainly also be
a woman, so even though one may want to focus on how the law affects women, one should
not ignore the consequences of economic dependency for male immigrant spouses. By
focusing only on the individual reference person, and by ignoring the relations of power
between cross-national couples, it is possible to employ an argument which seems to be in
line with the ideology of independence and gender equality. Alternatively, if focusing on the
cross-national couple, the subsistence requirement presupposes familialization and spouse-
dependency for immigrants, in contrast to the ideological promotion of and individual
independence in Norwegian society at large.
Denmark and Sweden are also categorized as social democratic welfare states
characherized by universal benefits, individual rights and de-familialization (Esping-Andersen
1999; Lister 2009; Sümer 2009). However, with regard to immigration and integration
policies, the three Scandinavian welfare states differ substantially (Hagelund 2008;
Langvasbråten 2008; Lister 2009; Morissens and Sainsbury 2005). Denmark has, in general,
introduced strict restrictions on family immigration, while the Swedish immigration regime is
less restrictive. Norway is positioned somewhere in the middle (Hagelund 2008, 74).
Denmark has a general subsistence requirement, but there is no demand for a certain annual
income as in Norway. The reference person has to provide a financial security (currently
about €8.700), and must not have received public assistance (The Danish Immigration Service
2010). In 2010, Sweden introduced a subsistence requirement for some groups of family
immigrants, but the scope of the requirement and the arguments presented for this recent
regulation differ from the Norwegian one (see Justitiedepartementet 2009).
Moreover, it is interesting to compare the Norwegian immigration regulations with
those of Germany, as Germany represents a different welfare state regime, namely the
“conservative” or “continental” model. In Germany, regulations used to prevent an immigrant
spouse from working for four years after arrival (Sainsbury 2006, 235).11 German rules, then,
as they were until very recently, not only presupposed a strong breadwinner model, but made
such a model mandatory for all cross-national couples. While the old Norwegian law allowed
for the spouses’ joint income could be considered, the new regulation presupposes a sole
breadwinner model at the time of application.
However, in contrast to German regulations and in line with the other Scandinavian
countries, family immigrants to Norway are normally given a work permit when the residence
permit is granted and are thus in principle allowed to earn wages. In addition, family
immigrants have, after residence permit is given, the right and obligation to participate in
Norwegian and social studies tuition, “aimed at improving immigrants’ chances of
participating actively in employment and society at large” (IMDi 2010). As such, welfare
state policies seek to promote individual economic independence for family immigrants as
well. In the long run, immigrant spouses are expected to participate in the labour market and
thereby contribute to a dual-earner family model, but this is something to be achieved after
settling in Norway. This taken into account, the subsistence requirement, which demands the
capacity to provide for a spouse, does not necessarily imply that immigration and integration
policy supports a sole breadwinner family model. Notwithstanding, economic dependency, at
least initially, seems to have become the price one must pay for entering the “gender equal”
Norwegian society. Thus, the regulation of family immigration to Norway holds some
paradoxes with regard to the ideological promotion of economic independence.
Behind the arguments for the subsistence requirement are two main issues which are
presented as problems, and it is these that the policy makers aim to address. First, there is the
problem of welfare dependency in general and the problem of immigration causing welfare
expenditure. Second, there is the problem of forced marriage. Economic independence
through labour market participation is offered as the solution to both these problems and the
subsistence requirement is put forth as the tool to promote labour market participation.
Independence is intimately linked to wage-earning labour and, in general, dependency is
portrayed as a problem, even though there are several legitimate positions of dependency.
This framing of the subsistence requirement tend to dominate the white papers and the
parliamentary debate. Compared to the extensive criticism directed toward the proposed age
limit for family immigration, the subsistence requirement has provoked remarkably little
protest and debate. However, there are oppositional voices, both inside and outside the
parliament, that question the intensification of the subsistence requirement and challenge the
dominant problem representations, for example by constituting discrimination and social
inequality as central problems.
Following the dominant representations of the subsistence requirement, economic
independence is promoted as a core value for all citizens, including immigrants. But
throughout the analysis it becomes clear that it is the economic independence of the reference
person that is the focus of the law proposal. For the sake of the family immigrant, the opposite
of state-dependency might be specified as spouse-dependency. Immigrant spouses are, at the
time of applying for family immigration, expected to be provided for by their spouses. In the
public debates and proposals on policies concerning breadwinning and the reconciliation of
work and family, the issue of women’s participation in the labour market and gender equality
are central. The majority of immigrant spouses are women, and taking these gendered patterns
of family immigration into consideration, it seems strange that the changes in the subsistence
requirement are discussed without much reflection over the gendered aspects of the capacity
and obligation to provide for/be provided for by a spouse. A lack of connection between
mainstream gender-equality policies and questions concerning minority and immigration
policies is not unique for this case study (Langvasbråten 2008; Roggeband and Verloo 2007;
Skjeie and Teigen 2007). Immigration policy, welfare state policy and gender equality policy
are linked to one another, but as long as issues of gender equality are only made relevant in
relation to forced marriage, the gendered patterns of immigration, economic dependency and
the capacity to provide for a spouse do not become a part of how the problem is represented.
They will therefore not be taken into consideration when the subsistence requirement is
I argue for the fruitfulness of combining the perspectives of immigration, welfare and
gender, and consequently I have discussed the subsistence requirement in relation to the wider
Norwegian, Scandinavian and European context. Even though the debates about the new
Norwegian immigration act have some commonalities with the public debate in Denmark,
there are marked differences between the Scandinavian countries with regard to immigration
and integration policies in general and family immigration policies in particular. Moreover,
this article reveals some paradoxes with regard to the norms of the Norwegian welfare state
model. Together, this might indicate that politics of immigration and integration do not
necessarily follow the traditional division between the three different welfare state regimes
The subsistence requirement is one part of a complex regulatory regime designed to
fulfil many different and potentially contradictory aims. This article has laid out the two
primary ways in which issues are presented as problems and how these problem
representations underlie the subsistence requirement. As Norway’s new immigration act has
just recently come into force, a discussion of the objectives of the subsistence requirement in
relation to its actual consequences is outside the scope of this article. However, the
Norwegian Directorate of Immigration indicates that more rejected applications will be a
likely consequence.12 What groups will be excluded from family immigration in the future and
how does this relate to different migration, gender and the welfare state regimes? I would
suggest that this is an important question for further research.
1. Between 1990 and 2006, family immigration on the basis of marriage constituted 26% of
all immigration to Norway from outside the Nordic countries (Daugstad 2008, 73). According
to Statistics Norway (SSB), “immigrants and those born in Norway to immigrant parents”
constitute 11,4% of the Norwegian population (SSB 2010, 1). Seven out of ten immigrants
originates from Africa, Asia, Eastern-Europe or Latin-America (Daugstad 2008, 13).
2. Family immigration refers to persons immigrating to live with family members. Family
reunification is perhaps the most common term for such permits. Lately, a distinction has
been made between family reunification and family establishment (AID 2007; NOU 2004: 20,
20; SOPEMI 2007). While the first term covers family immigration of children, parents, other
relatives and prior established marriages, the latter term refers to cross-national marriages
where the parties were formally settled in different countries at the time of marriage. Family
immigration is a more general term that refers to both family reunification and family
3. This research question is inspired by Syltevik and Wærness (2004, 125) a work which has
incited me to inquire into the forms of dependence created by different types of welfare
policies, and to discover the consequences they hold for various groups in the population.
4. This question is inspired by Carol Bacchi and her “what is the problem represented to be?-
approach”. In line with this approach, I employ the concept of “problem representations”. I
will elaborate on Bacchi’s approach in the section A New Norwegian Immigration Act – case
and methods.
5. For an overview of institutions and organizations invited to participate in the hearings and
results of the hearings, see The Ministry of Labour (the Ministry of Labour was named The
Ministry of Labour and Inclusion un till 2010):
ny-utlendingslov/2.html?id=97828 Date Accessed: 23.02.10, and
sikret-underhold-/horingsuttalelser-2.html?id=533765 Date Accessed: 16.02.2010.
6. April 1, 2010 Sweden introduced a subsistence requirement for family immigrants. The
requirement is waived for large groups, e.g. cases where the reference person is a child, a
Swedish citizen, a citizen of the EEA area or Switzerland, a refugee, an immigrant on a
permanent residence permit residing in Sweden for four years or more, or if the applicant is a
child (see Justitiedepartementet 2009 for further details).
7. Sainsbury presents a comparative study showing that the social rights of immigrants vary
between different welfare state regimes (Sainsbury 2006). In the USA (a liberal regime), the
right to family immigration has a strong class dimension. A strict income requirement limits
the possibility for low income groups to bring family members into the country. In Germany
(a conservative regime), the rules are based on a strong breadwinner model. Economic self-
sufficiency must be proven and is based on the single income of the male breadwinner.
Sweden (a social democratic regime) has a more inclusive policy where social rights are
based on residency and given as individual entitlements for family members (Sainsbury 2006,
8. The typology of Esping-Andersen (1992; 1999) has been contested. Jane Lewis (1992) has
argued for a different typology, one focusing on the different breadwinner models of the
welfare states. From such a vantage point, Norway has been characterized as a strong male
breadwinner regime in contrast to the weak breadwinner model characterizing the other
Scandinavian countries (Hagemann 2006; Hagemann 2007; Lewis 1992). Due to policy
changes over the past decades, Norway seems to be catching up with Denmark, Sweden and
other Scandinavian countries (Ellingsæter 2003).
9. Asylum seekers whose applications for a residence permit are accepted, may be given
refugee status or a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. Refugees are in many ways a
privileged category of immigrants compared to the latter, since they are given more rights.
The exemption from the subsistence requirement is one example of this privileged position.
Nevertheless, it must be specified that the exception to the subsistence requirement applies
only for the already-established family of a refugee. A refugee who establishes a new
marriage after coming to Norway is not protected by the principle of unity of the family. In
such a situation he or she must fulfil the subsistence requirement.
10. Interviews with employees at the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration February 8 to 12,
11. According to a report published by the European Migration Network in 2008, the German
regulations seem to have changed since Sainsbury’s analysis: ”Granting of a residence permit
to a dependant in Austria, Germany, Sweden can entitle its holder to take up employment
(European Migration Network 2008, 24).
12. This opinion was expressed by most of the employees I talked to at the Norwegian
Directorate of Immigration during a series of qualitative interviews conducted between
February 8 and February 12, 2010.
... While expectations related specifically to social family policy or family migration are missing from previous research that asserts the existence of a progressive dilemma, a few earlier studies have discussed the interplay between the design of family-policy models and the politics and policies of family immigration (Borevi 2015;Eggebø 2010;Shutes 2016). Since the majority of immigrating spouses are women, one central line of argument in these studies is that the gendered perceptions and outcomes produced by different models reinforce different types of dependency associated with family immigration: i.e. dependency on work (the market), on one's partner/resident sponsor (family), or on social benefits (the state) (Eggebø 2010). ...
... While expectations related specifically to social family policy or family migration are missing from previous research that asserts the existence of a progressive dilemma, a few earlier studies have discussed the interplay between the design of family-policy models and the politics and policies of family immigration (Borevi 2015;Eggebø 2010;Shutes 2016). Since the majority of immigrating spouses are women, one central line of argument in these studies is that the gendered perceptions and outcomes produced by different models reinforce different types of dependency associated with family immigration: i.e. dependency on work (the market), on one's partner/resident sponsor (family), or on social benefits (the state) (Eggebø 2010). ...
... State Corporatist welfare states, characterized by an emphasis on the traditional family and the role of male breadwinners, are also likely to impose stringent QC, especially for resident sponsors. In Universal welfare states, by contrast, we can expect QC -especially financial requirements aimed at resident sponsors -to be less stringent, inasmuch as such measures contradict the principle of autonomy inherent in the dual-earner model characteristic of these welfare states (Borevi 2015;Eggebø 2010). ...
Full-text available
The notion of a ‘progressive dilemma’, according to which there is an intrinsic tension between comprehensive welfare states and large-scale immigration, has figured prominently in scholarly as well as political debates over the last decade. As one of the main categories of entry in most affluent democracies, family immigration stands out as a particularly interesting test case in this context. Building on this notion of a progressive dilemma, as well as on other theorizing on the welfare-migration nexus, this study examines whether the restrictive effects of certain risk factors on family-immigration policies, such as growing immigration and rising unemployment, have been conditioned by the type of welfare regime. The empirical analysis herein finds that increasing immigration and higher unemployment have triggered policy restrictions in Basic Security welfare states, but that the influence of these factors on policy changes is less clear in State Corporatist and Universal welfare states. Contrary to what the idea of the progressive dilemma would lead us to expect, Basic Security welfare states with weaker universal and redistributive features have been more likely to sharpen restrictions on the admission of family migrants when under pressure from increasing immigration and rising unemployment.
... This process appears to be more relevant in France than in Italy, however, where migrant women had improved opportunities to obtain other forms of legalisation, mainly through employment-related regularisation routes, and where the role played by insider citizen children born to mixed unions is more relevant. The prolonged forms of dependency on a spouse that are highlighted in the literature in the field (Eggebø, 2010;JCWI, 2014;Liversage, 2013) are therefore less pronounced in France. While the role of the spouse may not be as crucial for legalisation in Italy, their greater family reunification rights can favour the formal incorporation processes of migrant women's relatives (something which is less clearly observed in France due to the less marked differences in the family reunification rights of citizens and TCNs) although this formal intermediary role can also be played by children born to mixed unions. ...
Full-text available
Insider family citizens—that is, people who, according to their nationality/legal status and the possession of crucial resources for the settlement of their relatives in a foreign context—occupy an especially important place within a wide and diversified set of family relationships. Drawing on qualitative interviews with migrant women and children in mixed-status families in Italy and France, we argue that they can act as 'membership intermediaries' towards migrant spouses and a wider set of kin. First, facilitating non-citizen relatives' formal incorporation in receiving countries through the provision of specially privileged forms of legality. Second, providing various resources for migrants' informal incorporation, including housing ownership, additional income, emotional, and cultural capital. Nonetheless, the ambivalent dependencies these processes trigger can become sources of contention, heightening gender and inter-generational power imbalances in the household.
... Kadınların erkeklere ekonomik bağımlı kılındığı bir sürecin yaşanmasında 20. yüzyıl, erkekler açısından bağımlılık endişelerinin azaldığı bir dönem olurken, kadınların bağımlılığı ile ilgili endişelerin ise evlenmemiş ve genç annelik çerçevesinde değerlendirilmeye başlandığı ve cinsiyetleştirilmiş sosyal yardım kapsamında katlanarak arttığı bir süreç olmuştur (Misra, 2003;Eggebø, 2010). ...
... Bacchi's (2009) approach has been used to analyse a range of problem representations (e.g., disability in physical education teacher education [28]; sexual intimacy following intimate partner violence in the DSM-5 [29]; regulation of marriage migration to Norway [30]; parental substance abuse [31]), demonstrating the applicability of this approach beyond the analysis of policy documents to include other authoritative documents and reports [24,29]. We therefore collected three types of data to explore the problem representations related to the introduction of ROM in mental health care in Australia. ...
Full-text available
Background There is growing interest in the use of routine outcome measures (ROM) in mental health services worldwide. Australia has been at the forefront of introducing ROM in public mental health services, with the aim of improving services and consumer outcomes. Methods An in-depth policy and document analysis was conducted using Carol Bacchi’s ‘What is the problem represented to be?’ approach to critically analyse the use of ROM. This approach was used to identify and analyse the problem representations relating to the need for, and the choice of, outcome measures in Australian public mental health services, and the potential consequences of policy and practice. Data included in the analysis were seven policy documents, four reports on the introduction of outcome measures in Australia, the Australian Mental Health Outcomes and Classifications Network website, and the content of the outcome measures themselves. Results Two dominant representations of the ‘problem’ were identified: 1) the ‘problem’ of mental health service quality and accountability, relating to the need for mental health outcome measures; and 2) the ‘problem’ of addressing deficits in biopsychosocial functioning of mental health consumers, which relates to the choice of outcome measures. Framing the ‘problem’ of mental health outcomes in these ways locates the problem within individual health providers, services, and consumers, ignoring the broader socioeconomic conditions underpinning mental health and effective service provision. Conclusions This critical analysis of the introduction and use of ROM in public mental health services in Australia highlights the need to consider the role of the social determinants of mental health, mental health service funding, and recovery-oriented care in ensuring services are meeting consumer needs and expectations. Broader governmental engagement is central to genuine change and opportunities.
... The fact that Esin came to Norway through marriage migration seems to establish a power imbalance between her and her Norwegian wife, given that her residential status in Norway had been dependent on her marriage. The socio-structural elements of Norwegian society, more specifically the bureaucratic rules around marriage migration with regulations to prevent pro-forma marriage, not only define a normative understanding of what a so-called real intimate relationship should look like but also generate a residential and economic dependence of the foreign spouse on the partner who already resides in Norway (Eggebø, 2010(Eggebø, , 2013. We suggest that such dependency, that being the cultural and linguistic other, further disempowered our participant and became a constitutive part of her violent experience. ...
Drawing upon in-depth, semi-structured interviews, this study explored how queer women from ethnic minority backgrounds in Norway understand and experience intimate partner violence (IPV). Based on an intersectional approach, the study highlights and discusses how having multiple minority positions may inform and affect the way participants experience IPV. The analysis shows that participants’ experiences of IPV are shaped by their multiple minority statuses in Norwegian society. A discussion is provided that revolves around how being a sexual as well as an ethnic minority generates a significant power imbalance for the participants in their relationships.
Full-text available
Pandemic border closures separated previously transnational couples, including unmarried partners, revealing under-researched forms of transnational family life. From this point of departure, we reexamine Norwegian family immigration regulation for unmarried partners from the 1980s onwards. Societal norms around coupledom have shifted toward Giddens’s “pure relationship.” Yet, immigration regulations have focused on “problematic marriages,” such as forced marriages or marriages of convenience. While unmarried partners have a right to family reunification after two years’ cohabitation, this requires prior permission to live in the same country. We investigate three sites of contestation where appeals are made to intimacy norms: The Liberal party’s “love visa” proposal, sponsors’ statements in case files, and protests from same-sex couples. Even in “cohabitation land,” these appeals ultimately come up against immigration control. This investigation contributes to the literatures on the transformation of intimacy and family migration; in particular, immigration regulation for unmarried same- and opposite-sex partners.
This article presents a reflection on the analytical value of intersectionality for scholars who seek to critically interrogate migration governance in Europe – of which integration measures are an integral part. While there is a growing interest in using gender and feminist theory to investigate the policies and practices that sustain migration governance, there has been little dedicated reflection on the analytical significance of intersectionality for scholarly knowledge production. Building upon work conducted within the field of feminist policy studies, we argue that intersectionality crucially points to the broad systems of inequality and domination that are implicated in the governance of migration, which materialize in the ways in which the latter categorizes and constructs immigrant identities along intersecting axes of inequality. Analytically disentangling how such migration-related difference is created and upheld through such structures of domination and discrimination, deconstructs the apparent naturalness of the state and its hegemonic classification power.
In a critique of integration, Schinkel (Citation2018) highlights the purification of class and race which evacuates explanatory variables from studies of integration as a concept and practice. Surprisingly gendered purification is left out. This article argues that a range of gender issues presenting migrant women, especially from Muslim countries, as being deficient in modernity and contributing to poor social reproduction through their family practices and transnational ties, were at the forefront of political calls for intervention in family lives and the implementation of integration measures in the past two decades. In part this reflects an attempt to alter the class composition of family migrants and bring them closer to middle-class norms and values. Such reductionist and homogenizing representations continue despite the complexity of contemporary family migrations and practices, reinforcing the continuing purification and simplification of categories of analysis in discussions of racialized gender and classed integration in European societies.
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In high-income countries, both single parents and migrants face elevated risks of living in poverty, but research has paid little attention to the intersection of single parent and migrant status. I examine the ways in which immigration policies make migrants dependent either on the labor market or on their families as a spouse or partner and how these dependencies present risks to migrant women who are single parents. I draw on qualitative data on migrant women’s experiences in the first five years after migration to the UK, which include their transitions to single parenthood, to explore how their legal status affects the risks that they experience. Those risks concern exclusion from access to social protection and permanent legal residence, where access is contingent on the ability to maintain a relationship to the market as a worker or to the family through marriage or a stable partnership.
div>The family lives of immigrants and ethnic minority populations have become central to arguments about the right and wrong ways of living in multicultural societies. While the characteristic cultural practices of such families have long been scrutinized by the media and policy makers, these groups themselves are beginning to reflect on how to manage their family relationships in a world where migration is a transnational piece of the pluralized global puzzle. Exploring case studies from Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Australia, The Family in Question explores how those in public policy often dangerously reflect the popular imagination, xenophobically stereotyping immigrants and their families, rather than recognizing the complex changes taking place within the global immigrant community.</div
How to respond to the needs of working parents has become a pressing social policy issue in contemporary Western Europe. This book highlights the politicising of parenthood in the Scandinavian welfare states - focusing on the relationship between parents and the state, and the ongoing renegotiations between the public and the private. Drawing on new empirical research, leading Scandinavian academics provide an up-to-date record and critical synthesis of Nordic work-family reforms since the 1990s. A broad range of policies targeting working parents is examined including: the expansion of childcare services as a social right; parental leave; cash benefits for childcare; and working hours regulations. The book also explores policy discourses, scrutinises outcomes, and highlights the similarities and differences between Nordic countries through analyses of comparative statistical data and national case studies. Set in the context of economic restructuring and the growing influence of neo-liberal ideology, each chapter addresses concerns about the impact of policies on the gender relations of parenthood. “Politicising parenthood in Scandinavia” is a timely contribution to ongoing policy debates on welfare state models, parenthood and gender equality. It will be of particular interest to students and teachers of welfare studies, family policy and gender studies.
During the 1990s, both the United States and Britain shifted from entitlement to work-based systems for supporting their poor citizens. Much research has examined the implications of welfare reform for the economic well-being of the poor, but the new legislation also affects our view of democracy-and how it ought to function. By eliminating entitlement and setting behavioral conditions on aid, welfare reform challenges our understanding of citizenship, political equality, and the role of the state. In Welfare Reform and Political Theory, editors Lawrence Mead and Christopher Beem have assembled an accomplished list of political theorists, social policy experts, and legal scholars to address how welfare reform has affected core concepts of political theory and our understanding of democracy itself. Welfare Reform and Political Theory is unified by a common set of questions. The contributors come from across the political spectrum, each bringing different perspectives to bear. Carole Pateman argues that welfare reform has compromised the very tenets of democracy by tying the idea of citizenship to participation in the marketplace. But William Galston writes that American citizenship has in some respects always been conditioned on good behavior; work requirements continue that tradition by promoting individual responsibility and self-reliance-values essential to a well-functioning democracy. Desmond King suggests that work requirements draw invidious distinctions among citizens and therefore destroy political equality. Amy Wax, on the other hand, contends that ending entitlement does not harm notions of equality, but promotes them, by ensuring that no one is rewarded for idleness. Christopher Beem argues that entitlement welfare served a social function-acknowledging the social value of care-that has been lost in the movement towards conditional benefits. Stuart White writes that work requirements can be accepted only subject to certain conditions, while Lawrence Mead argues that concerns about justice must be addressed only after recipients are working. Alan Deacon is well to the left of Joel Schartz, but both say government may actively promote virtue through social policy - a stance some other contributors reject. The move to work-centered welfare in the 1990s represented not just a change in government policy, but a philosophical change in the way people perceived government, its functions, and its relationship with citizens. Welfare Reform and Political Theory offers a long overdue theoretical reexamination of democracy and citizenship in a workfare society.
Complying with Colonialism presents a complex analysis of the habitual weak regard attributed to the colonial ties of Nordic Countries. It introduces the concept of ‘colonial complicity’ to explain the diversity through which northern European countries continue to take part in (post)colonial processes. The volume combines a new perspective on the analysis of Europe and colonialism, whilst offering new insights for feminist and postcolonial studies by examining how gender equality is linked to ‘European values’, thus often European superiority. With an international team of experts ranging from various disciplinary backgrounds, this volume will appeal not only to academics and scholars within postcolonial sociology, social theory, cultural studies, ethnicity, gender and feminist thought, but also cultural geographers, and those working in the fields of welfare, politics and International Relations. Policy makers and governmental researchers will also find this to be an invaluable source. © Suvi Keskinen, Salla Tuori, Sari Irni and Diana Mulinari 2009.