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Lost in Mobility?: Labour Migration from Baltic Lithuania to Sweden
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, REMESO - Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis seeks to make both theoretical and empirical contributions to the understanding of intra-EU mobility, with a focus on labour migration from Lithuania to Sweden. Inspired by a critical realist perspective, the thesis aims to help to explain the dynamics and individual decision-making behind mass labour emigration from the Baltic states, its socioeconomic consequences and policy responses. Theoretically, the thesis proposes a model that synthesizes a social transformation approach with an extended version of Hirschman’s analytical framework of exit, voice and loyalty. The three empirical articles, based mainly on semi-structured interviews, are situated within this framework. Two of the articles seek to explain the migrants’ decision-making process of stay-exit-entrance in the context of the structural-institutional social changes that followed (1) independence from the Soviet Union in 1990; (2) EU accession in 2004; and (3) the 2008/2009 economic crisis with austerity. The third article brings into the debate the perspective of the sending Baltic countries, in a broader context of the East-West migration debate.   

The dissertation shows that the consequences of the neoliberal policies of the post-communist and post-crisis transformations, together with the construction of formal migration channels after EU accession, constitute various migrant categories. Individual strategies of actively looking for channels to exit and enter, combining them in different ways at various points of the migratory process and establishing informal social networks are re-constituting who can be and who is a migrant. Furthermore, following the economic crisis and austerity measures, the decision to emigrate extends beyond individual survival strategies, instead becoming bound to an individual’s perception of the (ine)quality of life and pursuit of a better quality of life for oneself and one’s family across time and in different places. Finally, as the interviewed Baltic experts agree, the EU’s policy of the free movement is socially and economically problematic, although the official Baltic states’ policy responses focus primarily on ‘talented’ and ‘needed’ diaspora members’ return or engagement. These policies have proved to be inadequate to address demographic and socioeconomic challenges in part brought about by emigration.

The structural-institutional conditions, states’ and migrants’ strategies engender mobility as a social norm in the sending countries and promote and constitute the perpetuation of migration of both ‘precarious labour migrants’ and ‘active talented EU mobile citizens’.

Abstract [sv]

Avhandlingen avser att bidra både teoretiskt och empiriskt till ökad kunskap om den fria rörligheten inom EU med fokus på arbetskraftmigration från Litauen till Sverige. Inspirerad av kritisk realism som samhällsvetenskaplig metod är syftet att bidra till att förklara såväl dynamiken i som det individuella beslutsfattandet bakom den omfattande arbetsutvandringen från de baltiska staterna samt att diskutera dess socioekonomiska konsekvenser och politiska inverkan. Teoretiskt utgår avhandlingen från en modell som syntetiserar social transformation med en utsträckt version av Hirschmans analytiska ramverk för ‘sorti’, ‘protest’ och ‘lojalitet’. De tre empiriska artiklarna, som huvudsakligen bygger på semistrukturerade djupintervjuer, ligger inom detta ramverk. Två av artiklarna syftar till att förklara migranternas beslutsprocess i fråga om stay-exit-entrance mot bakgrund av de strukturella och institutionella sociala förändringarna som följde av: (1) självständighetsförklaringen från Sovjetunionen 1990; (2) anslutningen till EU 2004; och (3) den ekonomiska krisen 2008/2009 med följande åtstramningar. Den tredje artikeln för in de baltiska ländernas eget perspektiv i den bredare öst-västliga migrationsdebatten.

Avhandlingen visar att följderna av den postkommunistiska neoliberala politiken och omvandlingen efter den ekonomiska krisen, tillsammans med uppbyggnaden av formella migrationskanaler efter anslutningen till EU, bidrar till att skapa olika migrantkategorier. Individuella strategier för att aktivt leta efter kanaler för exit och enter, kombinera dem på olika sätt och utifrån olika stadier i migrationsprocessen samt etablera informella sociala nätverk bidrar till att (re)konstituera vem som kan vara och vem som är en migrant. Vidare, efter den ekonomiska krisen och de införda åtstramningsåtgärderna, handlar beslutet om att emigrera inte bara om individuella överlevnadsstrategier, utan också om individuella uppfattningar om vad som är livskvalitet och inte, (på engelska – (ine)quality of life), liksom strävan efter en bättre livskvalitet för sig själv och sin familj över tid och rum. Slutligen, som de intervjuade baltiska experterna är överens om, är EU:s politik för fri rörlighet socialt och ekonomiskt problematiskt, även om den officiella baltiska politiken i första hand fokuserar på ‘begåvade’ och ‘nödvändiga’ diasporamedlemmars engagemang eller återvändande. Denna politik har visat sig vara otillräcklig för att ta itu med demografiska och socioekonomiska utmaningar som delvis orsakades av utvandring.

De strukturella institutionella förhållandena och staternas och migranternas strategier skapar rörlighet som en social norm i länder med framträdande utvandring och bidrar till fortsatt migration, både vad gäller ‘prekära arbetskraftsmigranter’ och ‘aktiva och begåvade EU-mobila medborgare’.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2018. , p. 138
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 745
Keywords [en]
Intra-EU mobility; East-West labour migration; Lithuania; Sweden; social transformation; Hirschmanian model.
Keywords [sv]
rörlighet inom EU, öst-västlig arbetskraftsmigration; Litauen; Sverige; social omvandling; Hirschmans modell.
National Category
International Migration and Ethnic Relations Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-152271DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-152271ISBN: 9789176852606 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-152271DiVA, id: diva2:1258449
Public defence
2018-11-15, K3, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 13:15 (English)
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-10-24 Created: 2018-10-24 Last updated: 2019-09-26Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Policy Response to Emigration from the Baltics: Confronting ‘The European Elephant in the Room’
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Policy Response to Emigration from the Baltics: Confronting ‘The European Elephant in the Room’
2016 (English)In: Labour Mobility in the Enlarged Single European Market / [ed] Jon Erik Dølvik, Line Eldring, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016, 32, p. 45-72Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

At a time when migration policy has moved to the centre of national and European policy agendas, the three Baltic states are taking their first steps towards building a cohesive policy response to emigration. This is especially important in the wake of the global financial crisis, which generated an increased outflow from the Baltic states.

The Baltic states are facing variety of challenges in part caused by this movement of mainly working-age men and women: demographic issues related to an ageing society, labour market challenges and social security system sustainability. Within this context, the discussion of human resource losses is growing in the public sphere in the Baltic states.

Based on interviews with experts in labour and migration in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and a review of key national policy documents, this article analyses the commonalities among and differences between these three countries’ national responses.

Despite some variations in the characteristics and extent of emigration from the three countries, the interviewed experts agree that the European Union’s policy of free mobility is socially and economically problematic. As the interviews indicate, there have been strong calls in Latvia and Lithuania for a more cohesive intra-European migration management policy to address current imbalances between EU member states and ensure that the loss of human resources in sending countries is accounted for in the recruitment policies of receiving countries. On another hand, Estonia experiences more circular movement patterns and demonstrates a rather liberal view towards migration issues, seeing a virtue in the (regional) open market.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016 Edition: 32
Series
Book Series: Comparative Social Research, ISSN 0195-6310 ; 32
Keywords
Labour migration, intra-EU mobility, Baltic states
National Category
International Migration and Ethnic Relations
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-141963 (URN)978-1-78635-442-6 (ISBN)978-1-78635-441-9 (ISBN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2011-0338
Available from: 2017-10-16 Created: 2017-10-16 Last updated: 2018-10-24Bibliographically approved

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