Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Global Migration and Family Change in the Baltic Sea Region

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Global Migration and Family Change in the Baltic Sea Region

Article excerpt


Global migration rapidly modifies family life presenting migration and family scholars with new challenges. Researchers are interested in the effect migration has on a family not only because the number of such families is on the rise, but also due to the type of challenges it poses to the migration scholarship, more specifically, by highlighting the need to revise family theories rooted in the Tow mobility' discourse. Academics who work in the field describing and analyzing the dynamics of a family life simultaneously seek to come up with methodological tools for doing so.

The goal of the article is to review how global migration affects family life in the Baltic Sea region; we want to present the 'family change' perspective for studying migrant families and to illustrate its application by examining the experiences of Lithuanian migrant families.

In the first part of the article, we discuss the global migration trends in the Baltic Sea region. In the second part, we identify challenges families face by demonstrating that migrant families represent a growing and diverse type of family life. The third part is dedicated to the theoretical considerations in migration and family scholarship. In the fourth part we present the 'family change' perspective. Finally, we draw on the research data from the mixed methods study, conducted from 2012 to 2014 and funded by the Research Council of Lithuania, to examine how Lithuanian families change in times of global migration.


The Baltic Sea region is marked by active migration flows, whose direction and nature leads researchers to distinguish the migrant-sending Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) plus Poland, and migrant-hosting Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland).

The Baltic countries and Poland all have deep traditions of emigration to North America (mostly to the USA) and some Latin American countries. The early waves of emigration that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were driven by economic causes. After World War II, one observes a new, long-term emigration wave, which is primarily linked to political causes. North America has remained one of the main destinations for migrants. Contemporary migration, taking place post-1990 and especially post-2004, differs from the earlier waves: it is distinguished by a variety of migration types-motivated by economic, career, marriage, and family reasons-and changing migration directions. This time around, the Nordic countries are one of the most popular destinations.

The number of residents coming from the Baltic States and Poland to the Nordic countries only began to climb during the last decade, after the accession of these countries to the EU in 2004 (see Brunovskis, Djuve and Haualand, 2004). The official statistics show that from 2004 to 2013 more than 300,000 people have declared their move to one of the Nordic countries,1 making the Baltic States and Poland the main migrant-sending countries in the Baltic Sea region (Nordregio, 2010). According to Eurostat, in 2004-2013, more than 190,000 people immigrated to the Nordic countries from Poland and almost 62,000 have done so from Lithuania.

Unlike the Baltic States and Poland, the Nordic countries are distinguished by the regional migration and have prior experience in hosting immigrants. To this day, migration between the Nordic countries-facilitated by the agreement on the freedom of movement and a common labor market signed in 1954-comprises a significant proportion of international migration in the region. In contrast to the regional migration in the Nordic countries, emigration flows to other European countries remain low. For example, Eurostat data from 2013 indicates that the number of people who emigrated from Denmark to other Nordic countries (4,300) more than twice exceeded the total number of people who left to other European Union and EFTA countries (2,000). …

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