The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers

Postdoctoral fellow in Sociology

This job offer has expired

    Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Established Researcher (R3)
    Recognised Researcher (R2)
    16/10/2017 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Belgium › Louvain-la-Neuve


One Postdoctoral fellowship in Sociology at the CIRFASE, University of Louvain (Belgium) on one of the following topics:

  • US migrants’ access to social protection in Belgium


  • Love relationships, conjugal commitments and family formation in the destination country: the case of Congolese, Indian and/or US migrants in Belgium

The project will be conducted under the supervision of Prof. Laura Merla, University of Louvain, and in close collaboration with Prof. Majella Kilkey, Univeristy of Sheffield

This is a fixed-term, one year fellowship, renewable 2 times (with a total maximum duration of 3 years). 

About the LIMA ARC project" Personal Aspirations and Processes of Adaptation: How the Legal Framework Impacts on Migrants’ Agency

This 5-years Concerted Research Action project, financed by the Brussels-Wallonia Federation, examines how the EU and Belgian national legal frameworks impact migrants’ family and professional trajectories and to what extent they afford them the ‘capability’ to develop their lives according to their personal aspirations. This central thematic is explored holistically through the prism of law, demography and sociology. The project focuses on the following issues: a) The relation between migrants’ professional and family trajectories and their successive positioning within various legal statuses linked to their access to, and maintenance in, the Belgian territory; and b) The particular relationship that migrants develop with legal frameworks, and in particular, the various ways in which their professional and family projects articulate with the legal frameworks that regulate these areas.

The aim is twofold: understand how legal frameworks shape migrants' professional and family trajectories and life projects; and analyse the strategies that migrants develop to circumvent obstacles, and/or use the opportunities offered by legal systems to fulfill their professional and family aspirations.

The project focuses on third country nationals in Belgium, combining a doctrinal legal approach with quantitative and qualitative longitudinal fieldwork with Congolese, Indian and US adult migrants.

Research Environment

The University of Louvain is located in Louvain-la-Neuve, at only 30 minutes by train from the centre of Brussels. The UCL is the biggest French-speaking university of Belgium, and one of the world-leading universities (ranked 85th in the Arts & Humanities 2018 Times Higher Education World Universities Ranking). At the UCL, the postdoctoral researcher will be integrated in an interdisciplinary team of researchers in law, demography and sociology from three research centres: EDEM (European Law and Migration Team) with Prof. Sylvie Sarolea, DEMO (Research Centre in Demography) with Prof. Bruno Schoumaker and CIRFASE (Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Families and Sexualities), with Prof. Laura Merla & Jacques Marquet. The postdoctoral researcher will be mainly based at the CIRFASE, under the supervision of Prof. Laura Merla, a leading expert in family and migration studies who recently won an ERC Starting Grant project.

The postdoctoral researcher will also work in close collaboration with Prof. Majella Kilkey, from the Department of Sociological Studies, the University of Sheffield, UK. Majella Kilkey researches at the intersection of migration and family studies from both a policy and lived experience perspective. She is Co-Director of the Migration Research Group (MRG) in the Faculty of Social Sciences. The MRG is an interdisciplinary network of scholars conducting world-leading and high impact research on global migration and mobility. It is an institutional member of International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion (IMISCOE), Europe’s largest network of scholars in the area of migration and integration.

Sub-project summary

The postdoctoral researcher will be invited to develop a research project on one of the following topics:

  • Topic 1: US migrants’ access to social protection in Belgium

In this project, we define social protection as a safety net, located at the intersection between the State, the market, communities and families, and that protects individuals and their relatives against the following series of risks and social needs: unemployment, illness, poverty, parenting and housing. We are particularly interested in addressing the following set of sub-questions :

  1. The degree and margins of autonomy granted to migrants by the Belgian legal framework: what access do migrants have to social security or social assistance, and what margins of autonomy do they have within these systems?
  2. Migrants’ legal consciousness and coping strategies: what knowledge do migrants have of the Belgian systems of social protection and social assistance? What strategies do they put in place to access a certain level of social protection for themselves and their relatives? How do migrants combine social protection entitlements from their country of origin and destination?
  3. Role-conflicts and trade-offs: how do migrants cope with conflicts and trade-offs between the needs and obligations in their Belgian-based family, and their needs and obligations in their US-based family?
  4. Dealing with the temporality of the State: how do they deal with the temporality of their access to social protection rights and benefits? What happens when their migratory status changes?
  • Topic 2: Love relationships, conjugal commitments and family formation in the destination country: the case of third country nationals in Belgium

Union and family formation are important steps in life trajectories. The objective of this study is to understand how Congolese, Indian and/or US migrants who arrived in Belgium as single adults envision their couple relationships and build matrimonial and parental projects, depending on the opportunities and constraints of the legal framework. We are also interested in identifying the effects of union formation and dissolution on migrants’ legal status in Belgium, on their aspirations and projects, on the process of settlement in Belgium, and on their interpersonal networks. As in Topic 1, margins of autonomy, legal consciousness, coping strategies, role-conflicts and trade-offs, temporality of the State, and social networks represent important dimensions, as does the ways in which these dimensions may be gendered.

Tasks expected from the postdoctoral researcher

The postdoctoral researcher will :

  • Design his/her research project (within topic 1 or 2), in collaboration with the LIMA team and Prof. Kilkey;
  • Conduct qualitative fieldwork with migrants in Belgium. This includes: recruiting participants, and conducting semi-structured interviews with them at a regular interval, in order to follow the evolution of their situation over time;
  • Transcribe and analyse interview materials;
  • Develop a clear understanding of the key relevant features of the EU and Belgian migration frameworks, and of the social protection systems of the origin and destination countries of the migrants under study. For this task, the postdoctoral researcher will benefit from the expertise and assistance of the legal experts of the LIMA team;
  • Work in close collaboration with Prof. Laura Merla and her doctoral student Sarah Smit (LIMA team in Louvain-la-Neuve), and with Prof. Majella Kilkey (Sheffield). This also involves that the postdoc will combine his/her work at the University of Louvain with research stays at the University of Sheffield;
  • Participate in the scientific and administrative life of the CIRFASE;
  • Contribute to the dissemination of results (conference papers, seminars, and publications).

More Information


Net monthly allowance: ranging from 2,300 to 2,500 €.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible applicants must be in situation of 'international mobility': they have not resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the starting date of this fellowship; and they must have maximum 6 years of postdoctoral experience.


Selection process

Applications must be sent by email to berenice.goffin@uclouvain.be by 16 October 2017, with the message subject ‘LIMA_Postdoc’. Applications must include:

- a detailed cv

- a motivation letter (max 2 pages)

- 2 reference letters

- a copy of a book chapter or paper (published or accepted for publication) in English or French, demonstrating their analytical and empirical skills.

- A copy of their Thesis evaluation report.

A more detailed description of the research project can be obtained upon request.

Selection procedure:

Short-listed candidates will be interviewed in person at the UCL in Louvain-la-Neuve in November 2017. The interview will be based on their scientific track-record, and a short research proposal that they will be asked to submit by 30 October 2017 (single-spaced, maximum 3,000 words). The proposal should consist of a research proposal connected to topic 1 or 2. It should include information on methodological strategies, possible theoretical developments, and relevant literature and data sources. Final results will be notified before 20 November 2017. The successful nominee would be expected to start immediately.

Additional comments

This is a unique opportunity to integrate a vibrant interdisciplinary research team and to work in close collaboration with the Cirfase, University of Louvain and the Migration Research Group, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield (http://mrg.group.shef.ac.uk).


Web site for additional job details

Required Research Experiences

    4 - 10

Offer Requirements

    Sociology: PhD or equivalent
    ENGLISH: Excellent
    FRENCH: Basic


  • PhD in Sociology or another core Social Sciences discipline with demonstrable expertise in migration and/or family studies
  • Demonstrable experience in qualitative methods of data collection and analysis
  • Experience of migration policy and/or social policy analysis
  • An interest in legal sociology
  • Excellent level of English (spoken and written)
  • Very good reading knowledge of French (be able to analyse legal texts and policy documents in French)
  • High level written communication skills, with the ability to write for the academic community and the wider public
  • At least two papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as sole or main author
  • A collegial and collaborative approach to team-working
  • Excellent organisation and time-management skills
  • Experience of working on own initiative, being self-motivating and taking independent decisions
  • Ready to conduct short research stays at the University of Sheffield

Specific Requirements


To be eligible applicants must be in situation of 'international mobility': they have not resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the starting date of this fellowship; and they must have maximum 6 years of postdoctoral experience.

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
1 Place Montesquieu

EURAXESS offer ID: 247539


The responsibility for the jobs published on this website, including the job description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.


Please contact support@euraxess.org if you wish to download all jobs in XML.