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Juxtaposed intra-EU youth mobility: motivations among returnees to Latvia

Vielseitigkeit von Jugendmobilität innerhalb der EU: Motivationen von RückkehrmigrantInnen aus Lettland
Zaiga Krisjane, Elina Apsite-Berina, Guido Sechi et Māris Bērziņš

Résumés

All across Europe, a high share of youth is involved in intra-EU mobility. This paper explores the existent juxtaposed motivational aspects for young return migrant groups within the EU. Diverse patterns of emigration and return motivations frame the issue of return and reveal existent trends. With this study, we explore the juxtaposed motives triggering return migrants’ initial emigration, as well as the main motives for return migration.
Our study is based on quantitative analysis, using data from a panel survey of the Horizon2020 YMOBILITY project. Comparing first move and return motivations of Latvian and other intra-EU return migrants reveals specificities for each of the groups. In particular, the results corroborate motivations for departure – economics, self-development and various other factors for both Latvian and other intra-EU returnees; students form a specific subgroup of intra-EU returnees. The main turning points for both groups are achievement of migration goals and a multi-layered combination of factors; however, in the case of Latvian returnees, homesickness and nostalgia dominate in the decision to return.

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The research leading to these results received funding from the Horizon 2020 YMOBILITY project (Youth Mobility: Maximising Opportunities for Individuals, Labour Markets and Regions in Europe), grant agreement no. 649491. Project website: www.ymobility.eu.

Introduction

1Intra-EU migration is a multifaceted process, corresponding to various forms of mobility deemed “the new face of European mobility” in migration literature (Favell, 2008; Engbergsen et al., 2013; Bygnes and Erdal, 2016; King, 2017; King and Williams, 2017). Indeed, contemporary migration patterns in Europe show an increase in, and diversification of, migrant flows as a result of disparities in wealth, the removal of restrictions on the free movement of labour, reduced costs of transportation and communication, the expansion of formal and informal labour recruitment networks, and initiatives by governments and employers to recruit labour into specific economic sectors (Okolski, 2004; Hooghe et al., 2008; King, 2012). All of these forms of mobility coexist in a rapidly changing landscape of European migration.

2Numerous studies seeking to characterise return migration discourse conclude that the manifold nature of return migration processes requires an auxiliary approach, simultaneously introducing and taking advantage of competing theoretical approaches (King, 2017; De Haas et al., 2015). Considering the history of migration research, there has always been special attention paid towards issues related to economics and the labour market. More recently, migration theory has begun to consider the impact of social networks, family, cohabitation and transnational livelihoods on migration and related decision-making processes (King, 2012, 2017). Nowadays, mobility is driven by a mix of economic, social and cultural motives. In this respect, decisions related to migration are increasingly subject to social influence within the family, household and wider socio-cultural context (Sandu et al., 2017).

3Return migration is increasingly shaping European migration patterns and can no longer be seen as a marginal phenomenon. Pan-European migration, in particular migration from East to West, has had a complex history since the collapse of socialist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Throughout the 1990s, emigration from post-socialist countries remained limited as a result of remaining administrative restrictions (Lang et al., 2016). However, since the first enlargement of the European Union (EU) towards the East in 2004, many CEE countries have witnessed massive East-West migration flows, especially of young and highly educated people, as well as depopulation (King, 2017; Kureková and Žilinčíková, 2016; Kahanec and Zimmermann, 2010). Between the 2004 expansion of the EU and the economic recession of 2008, over two million people chose to immigrate to Western European countries in search of better employment and quality of life (Smoliner et al., 2013 according Lang et al. 2016 p. 4). With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013, East-West migration further intensified. As a result of the financial and subsequent economic crisis of 2008-12, migration from the Eastern part of Europe to the West became even more pronounced after 2010 (King 2017; McCollum et al., 2016). This large-scale emigration from post-socialist countries in the CEE often resulted in a lack of skilled labour in the sending regions. Many other studies have focused on labour market outcomes from the perspective of host countries (Anderson et al., 2006; Clark and Drinkwater, 2008; Dustmann et al., 2011; Harris et al., 2015; Masso et al., 2016), but more attention should be focused on sending countries and employment outcomes after returning. Previous research reveals that migrants often leave their home countries with the intention of returning, making emigration merely a temporary stage in their lives (Vertovec, 2009). Indeed, a substantial number of those who left CEE countries seem to have returned in recent years after the 2008-12 crisis. The prospect of being close to friends and family, attachment to the homeland and its cultural or natural environment, decreasing wage differences and improved job opportunities all act to attract former emigrants back home (Zaiceva and Zimmermann, 2012).

4In sending countries, the eventual consequences of post-accession migration period can be assessed in terms of the inflow and outflow of human, financial and social capital (Kahanec and Kurekova, 2011). The question about the balance between the brain drain and brain gain remains topical, as a share of migrant workers are underemployed relative to their qualifications and level of education (Masso et al., 2014; Johnston et al., 2015; Voitchovsky, 2014). In the case of young migrants, the timing and sequence of migration influence how youth mobility mediates both the transition to employment from education or unemployment, as well as the broader life-course transitions (Corijn and Klijzing, 2001) from youth to independent adulthood ( King et al., 2016).

5The decision to return is particularly important. Dustmann and Weiss (2007) coherently attribute this to human capital, drawing on the relative weights assigned to earnings related to acquired skills and costs of living in various geographies. In addition to financial considerations, the decision to return is influenced by social and cultural aspects, feelings of belonging, attachment to the home country, health, security and child education (Gmelch, 1980; Cassarino, 2004). It is also important to note that return may not be the end of the migration sequence, but rather a precursor of circular, serial or onward migration. Previous migration experience (including increased self-confidence, knowledge of and familiarity with resources such as networks) tends to open individuals to the possibility of engaging future migration (Baláž et al., 2004).

6The comparison of motivations for the emigration and return migration of Latvian return migrants and other intra-EU young return migrants (the UK, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Slovakia, and Romania) reveals specificities for each of the groups. The choice of comparative analysis and the consideration of Latvia as a case study given existent similarities among Eastern European migrants (Sandu et al., 2017) is based on evidence that family and homesickness have the highest mean value influence on decisions to return (Sandu et al., 2017 p. 8). The analysis was constructed around two main research questions, namely:

  • Which are the most visible and statistically significant motives for emigration and return migration for Latvian and other intra-EU young return migrants?

  • What are the main motivational specificities of return migrants to Latvia when compared to other intra-EU young return migrants?

Scarcity of data on youth return migration: an overview of most recent data

7Due to a lack of reliable statistical data, research on return migration is a challenging task. Nevertheless, available statistics were used to provide a context-specific picture in order to frame the analysis of primary data. Return migration cannot be measured directly according to national registry systems (Lang et al., 2016, p. 6). Available statistics in most EU countries do not allow for observations of individual migration biographies to be made. One possible way to estimate the extent of return migration is to analyse the demographic and social composition of immigrants. Despite the fact that this method contains various flaws (e.g. immigrants may acquire another citizenship abroad), it is still the most appropriate way to analyse return migration in a comparative manner. Another possible solution is to determine immigrants’ country of birth. Most EU countries publish data on the numbers of immigrants, divided into nationals and non-nationals. In most cases, these data can also be analysed by age group and gender. According to EUROSTAT (2017b), a total of 4.7 million people immigrated to one of the EU-28 member states in 2015. Among these 4.7 million immigrants, there were 1.4 million intra-EU migrants with citizenship from a different EU Member State from the one to which they immigrated, and around 860 thousand people who were returning nationals or nationals born abroad. Regarding youth return migration (adults aged 15-34), France reported the largest total number of young returnees in 2015 (55,444), followed by Poland (45,992), Germany (21,635), the Netherlands (10,805) and Lithuania (9,980). Data was not available for some countries; Latvia reported 1,933 young returnees (EUROSTAT, 2017a). There is no observable geographical pattern to the share of young returnees among all return migrants in 2015 across European countries. Among Baltic States there is the highest share of young return migrants in Lithuania, followed by Latvia (figure 1).

Figure 1. Share of young return migrants (15-34 years) among all return migrants of EU28 countries (by citizenship) in 2015 (calculations based on EUROSTAT, 2017a).

Figure 1. Share of young return migrants (15-34 years) among all return migrants of EU28 countries (by citizenship) in 2015 (calculations based on EUROSTAT, 2017a).

Data and methods

8The analysis used data from the panel survey conducted as part of the YMOBILITY project. In total 29,679 responses from young Europeans (aged 16 -35) were collected across the nine partner countries. Quantitative analysis on return migrants was performed. In total, responses from 3,851 return migrants were included in the main data file from the following countries: Latvia (n=311), the UK (n=565), Germany (n=587), Ireland (n=237), Sweden (n=312), Spain (n=709), Italy (534), Slovakia (n=351) and Romania (n=245). The analysed target group consists of individuals aged 16 to 35 who have resided abroad for at least six months. The group is balanced in gender across both groups, the average age is around 27 years and the average stay abroad is 27.58 months.

9The panel survey provides information about return migrant motivations for initial emigration (16 factors) and motivations to return (16 factors). Return migrants chose their answers from a five-point Likert scale (1-5). All items in each of the cases were used for further analysis. First, exploratory principal component factor analysis with Varimax rotation was performed in order to identify and compare latent factors behind emigration and return decisions among Latvian and other intra-EU returnees. The extracted factors were interpreted and described. Second, mean values for each motivational item were calculated for the Latvian sub-sample and among other returnees; the significance of differences between mean values for the two groups was also tested through independent samples t-tests.

10The factor analysis for emigration motivations returned respectively three latent factors for returnees to Latvia and four for the other intra-EU returnees. In the former case, the three factors accounted for 65.94 % of the variance; in the latter, four factors accounted for 71.29% of the variance. The rotated factor loadings and items’ grouping are summarized in Table 1.

11Factor 1 and Factor 1* are related to the desire for higher personal income, better working conditions and career advancements; despite some slight differences for both groups, it is labelled ‘economic advancements’. Factor 2 and Factor 2* relate to the wish to invest in one’s own human capital, and is thus labelled ‘self-development’; interestingly, for intra-EU return migrants, a separate factor related to educational capital can also be identified (see Table 1 Factor 3**). Finally, for both target groups, Latvian return migrants and other intra-EU returnees, Factor 3 and Factor 4* are labelled ‘miscellany’, indicating emigration motivations and the mixed nature of compositional variety.

Table 1. Initial emigration motivation among return migrants aged 16 to 35. Factor analysis.

Variable

Economic advancements

Self-development

Self-development for students**

Miscellany

Latvia

Intra-EU

Latvia

Intra-EU

Intra-EU

Latvia

Intra-EU

Factor 1

Factor 1*

Factor 2

Factor 2*

Factor 3**

Factor 3

Factor 4*

Higher salaries

.657

.853

Improve language skills

.839

.569

.526

General welfare / quality of life

.709

.510

Acquire new job skills

.675

.845

Previously unemployed / precarious job

.775

.710

Better career advancement opportunities

.636

.827

Lifestyle / culture

.785

.630

Join family / partner / spouse

.716

.785

Join friends

.750

.785

Escape personal problems

.582

.693

Healthcare

.719

.782

Housing opportunities

.763

.795

Climate

.769

.726

Study as exchange student

.840

.764

Study for a degree

.749

.721

Political and social conflict

.791

.819

Company transfer

.886

.795

Method of extraction: principal component analysis. Rotation method: Varimax with Kaiser normalisation.

12Respectively, the factor analysis for return motivations identified three latent factors for returnees to Latvia, accounting for 63.91% of the variance, and two for other intra-EU returnees, accounting for 63.58% of the variance. The rotated factor loadings and items’ grouping are summarized in Table 2.

13Factor 1, labelled ‘nostalgia’, is unique in the analysis as it is singled out only for return migrants to Latvia. Factor 2 and Factor 1* is labelled ‘achievement’; the same factors are singled out for both target groups. As analysis of emigration motivations also suggests, return strategies imply various combinations of motives, thus Factor 3 and Factor 2* are labelled ‘miscellany’. In each case, different combinations of factors are present; therefore, only detailed descriptions will clarify the peculiarities.

Table 2. Return migration motivation among return migrants aged 16 to 35. Factor analysis.

Variable

Nostalgia

Achievement

Miscellany

Latvia

Latvia

Intra-EU

Latvia

Intra-EU

Factor 1

Factor 2

Factor 1*

Factor 3

Factor 2*

Homesickness

.835

.672

To take care of the family

.808

.787

Children to grow up in home country

.711

.826

Get married / form a family

.633

.768

Migration aims achieved

.653

.538

Come back home to complete training/studies

.792

.722

General welfare / life quality

.787

Stay planned as temporary (work / studies)

.663

.863

Personal problems

.644

.772

Cheaper cost of living

.589

.784

Health problems

.792

.810

Better job prospects / income

.844

.737

Have own house

.721

.747

Create new business at home

.671

.780

Difficult socio-cultural environment

.719

.828

Work permit expired / not renewed

.724

.668

Company transfer

.748

.784

Method of extraction: principal component analysis. Rotation method: Varimax with Kaiser normalisation.

Emigration: higher incomes and self-investment

14The foundation of the analysis lies within the comparison of different groups of intra-EU return migrants, namely, return migrants to Latvia and other intra-EU returnees. The analysis discusses motivations for both the initial emigration and for the decision to return. Within this framework, mean values are first compared for the emigration motivational variables highlighting the existent significance levels for Latvian and other intra-EU return migrants. Factor analysis is then performed and used to determine and name relevant motive aggregates for each group. The same analysis is also performed for return migration motives.

15The comparison of mean values (Table 3) for migration motivations shows some specificities of returnees to Latvia when compared to other returnees in the sample. The top factors among returnees to Latvia are higher salaries, improvement of language and job skills, welfare and quality of life. Similar evidence was found in previous analysis researching general mobility tendencies in Latvia, especially during crisis period when the main motives relate to economic issues and challenging labour market (McCollum et al., 2016). When compared to other intra-EU returnees, Latvians are statistically more likely to have initially moved abroad for these reasons. Similarly, Latvians are also more likely to have moved abroad in order to improve general quality of life. Relatively high mean value and statistically significant differences are found among Latvians who emigrated due to unemployment in Latvia. These results are in line with other studies characterising large Eastern European migrant groups to Western European countries.

16Among other return migrants, the most relevant motivations are improvement of language and job skills and attraction to the lifestyle and culture of the destination country. Interestingly, within this group the most evident statistical differences in the main motivations for emigration can be observed for lifestyle/cultural experiences (King, 2017). An even further difference can also be observed for study related factors and company transfers; this suggests that that these possibilities are more limited for Latvian young migrants than for those in other EU countries.

17Overall, socio-economic motivations (in particular related to salaries, welfare conditions, and unemployment in the sending country) are on average more relevant among returnees to Latvia. On the other hand, education-related motivations, experience-related migration, and company transfer are less common than the average among returnees to Latvia.

Table 3. Motivations to migrate. Mean values and significance level.

Variables

Return migrants to Latvia aged 16 to 35

Intra-EU return migrants aged 16 to 35

Mean

Significance level

Mean

Significance level

Higher salaries

4.42

***

3.58

Improve language skills

4.02

4.03

General welfare / quality of life

4.00

***

3.45

Acquire new job skills

3.89

3.89

Previously unemployed / precarious job

3.77

***

3.15

Better career advancement opportunities

3.67

3.64

Lifestyle / culture

3.27

3.73

***

Join family / partner / spouse

2.94

2.76

Join friends

2.87

2.78

Escape personal problems

2.84

2.89

Healthcare

2.83

2.72

Housing opportunities

2.79

2.73

Climate

2.76

2.98

*

Study as exchange student

2.75

3.31

***

Study for a degree

2.61

3.20

***

Political and social conflict

2.58

2.51

Company transfer

2.11

2.60

***

18As described in the Data and Methods section, factors for each of the groups were analysed by factor analysis, making the verification of motivations for each of the groups possible in a wider context. Overall, the analysis results in seven factors.

  • Economic advancements – this is relevant for both groups of young returnees, however, nuanced differences are present. Both groups emigrated in search of higher income; moreover, the decision to emigrate can often be attributed to previous unemployment experience in the home country and an elevated need to earn. For both groups, moving abroad seemingly offered better career advancement opportunities. The difference that could be explained by macro-economic challenges is that Latvian youth mostly emigrated in order to increase overall quality of life and personal or household welfare, whereas other intra-EU young returnees, as found in recent study on Italian and Spanish young returnees, initially moved abroad in order to acquire new skills (Pumares et al., 2017). In spite of economic advancements (Sandu et al., 2017) present for both groups, the emphasis among returnees to Latvia is more on instant/short-term economic benefit, while other intra-EU returnees are more focused on long-term human capital investment corresponding to the theoretical core-periphery model (King, 2017).

  • Self-development – language skill improvement is one of the major assets expected from an international move and is present for both groups. Young Latvian returnees initially emigrated in order to acquire new job skills, but other returnees moved as a part of their lifestyle strategy (King, 2017). Furthermore, academic exchanges or degree programs abroad are also attractive to intra-EU young migrants. Similarly to economic advancements, self-development strategies are also slightly different between groups. Latvians wish to improve language and professional skills as an investment in their future, whereas other intra-EU young return migrants migrate as a lifestyle choice at particular stage of life, which could correspond to the idea of liquid migration (King, 2017); language improvement is seen as additional benefit. Study related migration is more common among non-Latvian returnees.

  • Miscellany – the varied nature of motives involved in the decision making process of emigration. There is rarely only one trigger leading to relocation. Interlinked mixed motives from personal or economic problem solving strategies to possible access to available benefits, family reunification and climate all are indicative of the diversity of current mobility patterns in Europe.

Return motivations: homesickness and achievement

19The results present the ranging of mean values for return motivations and the analysis of the most statistically significant factors for each group. Latvian return migrants are strongly influenced by homesickness and the desire to take care of elders, raise children and start one’s own family in the home country. All of these factors show statistically significant differences when compared to other EU returnees.

20Among intra-EU returnees, the main factors point to the temporary nature of the planned stay, achievement of migration goals, and the desire to return home to complete training or studies. All three factors are more relevant for intra-EU return migrants than for Latvian returnees. Additional differences are found among groups; intra-EU youth are statistically more likely than Latvians to return due to better prospects for work and income in their home country, home ownership and business creation, work permit expiration and company transfer.

21Overall, the comparison of mean values for return motivations shows that family and nostalgia-related reasons are significantly more relevant among returnees to Latvia. On the other hand, planned return motivations, considerations related to better socio-economic opportunities back home, and being forced to leave are significantly less common motivations than the average among returnees to Latvia.

Table 4. Motivations to return. Mean values and significance level.

Variables

Return migrants to Latvia aged 16 to 35

Intra-EU return migrants aged 16 to 35

Mean

Significance level

Mean

Significance level

Homesickness

4.06

***

3.20

To take care of the family

3.65

***

2.92

Children to grow up in home country

3.39

***

2.73

Get married / form a family

3.25

***

2.80

Migration aims achieved

3.17

3.56

***

Come back home to complete training / studies

3.12

3.49

***

General welfare / life quality

2.95

2.93

Stay planned as temporary (work / studies)

2.88

4.01

***

Personal problems

2.71

2.77

Cheaper cost of living

2.63

2.70

Health problems

2.59

2.42

Better job prospects / income

2.55

2.97

***

Have own house

2.46

2.93

***

Create new business at home

2.36

2.65

**

Difficult socio-cultural environment

2.34

2.50

Work permit expired / not renewed

2.18

2.71

***

Company transfer

1.81

2.53

***

22Even though motivations for emigration show differ significantly and exhibit contextual separation between each group, it seems that return migration strategies are similar for both Latvian and other young intra-EU return migrants to a much higher extent. Statistical differences were previously found between Latvians, who are more likely to return due to nostalgia, and intra-EU returnees who are more likely to return after migration aims have been perceived to be achieved.

23Factor analysis for return motivations suggests the following factors:

  • Nostalgia – homesickness, taking care of the family, raising children and starting a family in the home country (Sandu et al., 2017; Klave and Supule, 2015) are the most essential elements in the return strategies of Latvian return migrants. In this context, financial and economic issues are secondary. For young returnees to Latvia, family and elder care (King and Lulle, 2016), local identity and life stage transitions (King and Williams, 2017) are most important.

  • Achievement – factors related to achievement serve as evidence of the new economics of labour migration (De Haas et al., 2015), positing return migration as the subsequent step after desired assets have been acquired. This depends on international moves for both work and study being temporary in nature, with clearly defined aims to be achieved during the stay, as well as the idea of migration as a short term solution to economic problems which is present for both Latvian and other intra-EU young returnees.

  • Miscellany – The mixed nature of factor description complicates any one single interpretation. Specific features within the group, especially for intra-EU returnees, display a mixture of almost all factors. In the case of returns to Latvia, besides health and personal problems and difficulties integrating in the host society (Sandu et al., 2017; Farrell et al., 2014), the remaining factors are positive, e.g., better prospects for employment and income, cheaper costs of living, property purchase and the creation of one’s own business.

Concluding remarks

24The homogeneity of motivations for emigration and return migration among young European returnees to some extent echoes common migration decision strategies. The analysis of micro level data shows many specific features of return migrants to Latvia in terms of motivations for initial and return migration. The typical patterns seem to follow the logic of initial migration motivated by economics and return migration motivated by nostalgia and family-related concerns. This is to a large extent at odds with the average characteristics of the intra-EU returnees as it emerges from the data, who mainly migrate in order to improve personal skills or achieve formal qualifications, advance their careers, seek cosmopolitan experiences and return home after achieving these goals.

25The volume of previous studies on the intra-EU mobility of different migrant groups is extensive; however, a certain stereotypical line of thinking related to Eastern European migrants moving to wealthier countries is clearly present. Eastern European migrants are largely perceived to be low-skilled (Parutis, 2014; Favell, 2008), as relocation implied a trade-off of lowered social status for higher income (Markova and Black, 2007; Favell, 2008). Polish migrants tend to return after economic goals have been achieved due to personal motives or attracted by welcoming economic conditions in the home country (Coniglio and Brzozowski, 2016; Fihel and Grabowska-Lusińska, 2014). Young Romanians emigrate to overcome economic and work related disappointments, attain education or experience a different lifestyle. Return migration is related to starting a family or caring for existing family members, realized goals or a desire to start a business in the home country (Sandu et al., 2017).

26However, are young migrants representing the same patterns? Previous studies on labour migration from Latvia found the importance of increased income abroad (Krisjane et al., 2007; Eglite and Krisjane, 2009; Hazans, 2011). Recent studies on intra-EU return migrants to Latvia and high skilled returnees to Lithuania (Barcevičius, 2015) show common motives for return migration which relate to homesickness, family and personal reasons. In case of Latvia around 80% migrants across all age groups return because of family, love, other personal reasons and longing for Latvia (Hazans, 2016). These reasons are not so common among other young intra-EU return migrants.

27Moreover, the analysis of motivations for emigration and return migration for Latvian returnees juxtaposed with intra-EU returnees and suggests that returnees to Latvia tend to migrate in order to achieve economic benefits and return because of nostalgia and family-related issues. Intra-EU returnees emigrate mainly to improve personal skills and gain experience, returning after these goals have been achieved. Emigration for intra-EU returnees mostly appears as an investment in personal development (in terms of skills and formal qualifications) and as an experience which is planned as temporary, whereas Latvian young return migrants seem to be driven by more short-term economic goals, returning due to feelings of attachment to their home country and a desire to care for or start new families.

28The results reflect the difference in macro-level socio-economic conditions between and among EU countries; they also confirm previous empirical findings in literature on return migration that home attachment is a characterizing feature of recent CEE migration. The interpretation of the results allows two main outstanding prevailing factors, i.e., homesickness and attachment to the homeland in the case of Latvian return migrants, to be highlighted (Hazans, 2016; Klave and Supule, 2015), as well as student mobility among intra-EU young returnees (Van Mol, 2017; Findlay, 2011). The individual nature of the case study makes possible the explanation of specific features from a theoretical perspective, in line with several studies on return migration.

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Titre Figure 1. Share of young return migrants (15-34 years) among all return migrants of EU28 countries (by citizenship) in 2015 (calculations based on EUROSTAT, 2017a).
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Zaiga Krisjane, Elina Apsite-Berina, Guido Sechi et Māris Bērziņš, « Juxtaposed intra-EU youth mobility: motivations among returnees to Latvia », Belgeo [En ligne], 3 | 2018, mis en ligne le 20 mai 2018, consulté le 18 janvier 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/belgeo/21167 ; DOI : 10.4000/belgeo.21167

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