Guarding the borders of the Norwegian welfare state. How NAV employees decide on social assistance for unemployed Polish migrants
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSynnes, K. M. (2021). Guarding the borders of the Norwegian welfare state. How NAV employees decide on social assistance for unemployed Polish migrants. Nordic Social Work Research, 11(2), 169-182. https://doi.org/10.1080/2156857X.2020.1861070
In this article, I focus on social relations and institutional logics to explore how street-level bureaucrats in the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) assess unemployed Polish migrants’ entitlement to social assistance. The article draws on qualitative interviews with 12 employees in local NAV offices. Institutional theory and theoretical perspective on borderwork are used as analytical lenses. The article responds to a growing academic interest in exclusionary practices within welfare states, which are of particular relevance for mobile EU citizens. I argue that assessments concerning social assistance for Polish migrants represent subtle borderwork in which conditionalities derived from EU/EEA regulations are reinforced. Although formal regulations are ambiguous and seem open to discretion, the way in which these regulations are translated into practice is often not perceived as discretionary by the professionals. In this article, I suggest that the reason for this is connected to the social relations in which they participate as they assess applications as well as institutional logics, which provide meaning and understanding of situations. As a result, the street-level bureaucrats are drawn towards strict interpretations and practices of the regulation.
Author's accepted manuscript