New motives for migration? : On interregional mobility in the nordic context

Abstract: The subject of this thesis is migrants’ motives and the outcomes of interregional migration, as well as how the propensity for interregional migration has changed for different groups over the past three decades. The background consists of a discussion on the role of the labour market in long-distance migration decisions and a discussion on how social and economic change affect the context in which migration decisions are made. The thesis consists of four empirical studies presented in four separate papers. The studies derive from two sources of data. Papers I and II are based on a Nordic survey, while Papers III and IV draw from Swedish population register data. Paper I focuses on migrants’ perceptions of the migration decision, motives, voluntariness, attitudes and values, based on a survey. The conclusion of this paper is that employment is by no means a dominating motive from the migrant’s perspective. Additionally, very few migrants explicitly express a sense of being forced to migrate against their will. Paper II is also based on the survey and examines the migrants’ perceptions of the outcome of migration in economic and non-economic terms. This paper further supports the view that employment and income gain are in most cases subordinate in the migration decision from the individual migrants’ point of view. Paper III is a register study comparing the composition of interregional migrants in Sweden during the period 1970-2001. In this study, it becomes evident that the increase in migration rates in the 1990’s was an effect of increased migration among young people. Compared to 1970, increasingly more people migrated during a time in life when they were not yet established on the labour market and had no family. Paper IV is also a register study comparing the effect of commuting potential on migration propensity in Sweden during the period 1970-2001. This paper concludes that increased commuting should be interpreted as a result of, rather than an explanation for, long-distance migration reluctance. Migration literature suggests that long-distance migration is primarily labour-market induced. This is evident in the sense that long-distance migration requires a new job in a new locality for those who are in the labour force, but this study show that this does not necessarily mean that employment is the main motive in the migrant’s mind; the trigger is usually something else, often related to social relationships. The pattern of interregional migration has changed over time. Compared to the 1970’s, more people now migrate at a time when they are not established on the labour market, and other considerations besides employment are thus more relevant. An important explanation for the current immobility among families and employed persons is attributed to the increase in dual-career households during the period studied. This has changed the aggregated migration behaviour everywhere, regardless of commuting potential, but enhanced constraints for interregional migration in this group could be seen as an explanation for the observed increase in commuting.