Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Migrants' Life Strategies and Opportunity Structures: Focus on Post-Independence Ukrainian Labour Migrants

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Migrants' Life Strategies and Opportunity Structures: Focus on Post-Independence Ukrainian Labour Migrants

Article excerpt

Introduction: Transnational Migrants and The Life Strategy Perspective

International migration is a dynamic and fast-growing phenomenon that becomes an increasingly important part of the policy agendas of developed countries. The international migration system is now more integrated and has become more transnational in nature than ever before. Transnational migration and the sociocultural dynamics of the sending and receiving countries cannot be understood and explained without giving attention to the representations, expectations and life strategies of different social actors involved in globalization processes. This involves the classic tension between structure and agency, which can be solved by adopting the life strategy perspective to migrants' transnational lives.

With the intention of presenting empirical evidence on how individuals with the help of migration cope with post-Soviet societal changes that facilitate or impede individual life strategies, this paper utilizes an integrated life strategy theoretical perspective exploring agency of transnational Ukrainian labour migrants. Central to this study is the definition of life strategy suggested by Reznik (1995), who defined life strategy as a dynamic, self-adjusted system of socio-cultural presentations of individuals about their own lives, which orient the behavior during the protracted period of life determined by the socio-cultural conditions and environment. Within the life strategy perspective, international migration is understood as a tool for implementing the long-term life plans of the individual who chooses to go abroad as a means of its realization.

The concept of life strategy as an integral part of broader development processes was constantly ignored by mainstream transition and migration scholarship (exceptions include, Geisen, 2013; Volodko, 2007; Mrozowicki, 2011) and this paper makes an attempt to fill that gap. As such, the research that informs this paper is based on the conceptual explanation of the life strategies of migrants through the prism of the conceptual life strategy research framework. Because life strategy is the preeminent indicator of the success or failure of current democratization and neoliberal processes (Reznik and Smirnov, 2002) in post-independence Ukraine and an indicator of ongoing migration processes in Western Europe, the life strategies of individuals are worthy of deeper investigation. This paper is not about migration per se, but it sits within the migration context. The data analysis approaches migration only as it is associated with post-Soviet transition in Ukraine and the life strategies of those who left the country as a part of that transition. The category of "migrants" is a category used to describe the group of actors whose life strategies are examined. Hence, the main focus of the article is on the under researched role of the citizens of Ukraine as agents, specifically the individual strategies they deploy to confront the consequences of structural transition in their home country. As Giesen (2013: 1) argued, a life strategy approach helps researchers "gain new insights on migrants as social actors". Further it is argued that the proliferation of a particular type of life strategy can determine the developmental trajectory of the whole society. It opens up the debate about the relationship and mutual interdependence between life strategies of individuals and societal transformations. Along with retrospective elements the category of life strategy includes also perspective life planning with a strong focus on the performance of plans, values, aims and results of the action on both sides of the border - within the sending as well as the host country. The life strategies of labor migrants, as transnational agents of social change, are constructed based on social actors' representations of life, goals and aspirations. These representations are based on an understanding of migrants' own needs and available resources to achieve them, which may be personal, group, structural and institutional. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.