Go West : East European migrants in Sweden

Abstract: Many people have migrated between East and West Europe in recent decades. The daily life of these migrants is crucial not only for the migrants themselves but also for the development of future migration. The aim of this thesis is to explore the interaction between migration motives, integration, social networks and migration, and how this affects international migration processes in general. This is done using migration between Sweden on the one hand and Russia, Poland and the Baltic States on the other as a case study.The thesis consists of three empirical studies which derive from different sources of data: the first (Paper I) draws on individual Swedish register data while the second and third are based upon a questionnaire survey. Paper I explores aspects of transnational social spaces in the context of migration from the non-Baltic former Soviet republics to Sweden before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The results of this paper show rather limited migration and a lack of a more developed transnational social space. This is partly due to weak integration on the labour market, a high degree of intermarriage, no existing migrant community and limited return migration. The following two papers (II, III) focus on migrants from Russia, Poland and the Baltic States to Sweden after 1990. Paper II analyses migration motives and the outcome of the migration decision, and reveals significant gender differences in the motives for migrating and in how men and women adapt in their new country of living. While men mainly came for economic reasons, the majority of women came for intermarriage in Sweden; however, the migration motives have changed over time towards more economic ones. The final paper (III) shows significant gender differences in the migrants’ perceived sense of belonging in Sweden. Women report a stronger sense of belonging than their male counterparts, and while men’s sense of belonging is mainly affected by duration of stay in Sweden, language proficiency and citizenship, women’s sense of belonging is shown to be mostly affected by local social networks. In sum, the results in this thesis show that migration systems and transnational social spaces between Sweden and the respective countries have not yet emerged. This is partly due to the specific migrant composition and integration that characterize this migration process. The immigrants mainly function as weak bridgeheads, and do not facilitate the development of any further migration. However, with a changing migration flow, including migrants with different motives and migration agendas, future migrants can be stronger bridgeheads and facilitate further development of migration systems and transnational social spaces.

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