The Importance of Discretion for Welfare Services to Minorities: Examining Workload and Anti-immigration Attitudes

Carolin Schütze, Håkan Johansson

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Migration influx in Western countries resulting in increasingly diverse societies results in more complex situations for bureaucrats in their client interactions in welfare organizations. The role of discretion for services to clients has received much attention in the public administration research and therefore this study explores the relation among perceived workload, anti‐immigration attitudes, perceived discretion, and perceived difficulty in working with migrants. The paper examines the function of perceived discretion as moderator or mediator variable in this constellation. The relations are examined by using structural equation modelling based on a survey among Swedish welfare bureaucrats (N = 1,319). The results show that heavier perceived workload increased the likelihood of experiencing work with migrants as difficult and that greater perceived discretion decreased the likelihood of experiencing work with migrants as difficult. The results suggest that perceived discretion functions as a mediator for the relation between perceived workload and difficulty in work with migrants: potentially functioning as a ‘buffer’ for organizational pressure. We also found that bureaucrats who hold negative attitudes towards migrants were more likely to express their work with migrants as more difficult. This paper contributes to the public administration literature by increasing our knowledge on how discretion has significance in relation to when bureaucrat's behaviour is determined by specific organizational and personal factors.
TidsskriftAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)426-443
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2020

Bibliografisk note

Published online: 31 January 2020


  • Discretion
  • Migration
  • Quantitative methods
  • Street-level bureaucracy
  • Welfare organizations