Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Does International Migration Pay Off?: The Labor Market Situation of Finnish Return Migrants Based on Longitudinal Register Data

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Does International Migration Pay Off?: The Labor Market Situation of Finnish Return Migrants Based on Longitudinal Register Data

Article excerpt

Introduction

Europe is home to a unique system where the nationals of European Union (EU) member states and countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) are free to move freely within a large geographical area. Different types of Europeans take advantage of free movement: manual laborers, service sector employees, highly skilled professionals, students and trainees, families, and retired persons move to different destinations depending on their own interests (e.g., King, 2002; Black et al., 2010; Recchi & Triandafyllidou, 2010; Engbersen, 2012). International mobility is a form of flexible labor market adaptation available also for young Nordic nationals who have the privilege of relatively easy return or onward migration if life abroad does not proceed as expected. This article, based on longitudinal cohort data, focuses on the pre- and post-migration labor market situation of relatively young Finnish migrants who experiment with living abroad only to return to their country of origin. The temporary move abroad is understood as a labor market transition (e.g., Schmid & Gazier, 2002; Schmid, 2008), which can have either positive or negative effects on the individual's career and labor market situation when returning to the country of origin. The article considers the consequences of return for an individual migrant: is return more likely to be understood as a failure in labor market integration and achievement in the country of destination or rather a sign of success whereby the skills, resources, and experiences gained abroad are brought back to the country of origin (e.g., Cassarino, 2004; de Haas et al., 2015)? And was the time spent abroad a beneficial or an excluding transition for the individual's career?

Research on labor market behavior (e.g., Lippman, 2008; see also McDonald et al., 2011) has noted that young cohorts who enter the labor markets during turbulent times differ from older cohorts with respect to their attitudes toward work and careers. The time during which different age groups grow up and become socialized to expect certain kinds of conditions in the working life play a role in how they behave when faced with the risk of involuntary unemployment. Older workers are more likely to become displaced and have a higher risk of long periods of unemployment than younger workers, who are more eager to retrain for a new occupation. This is not only related partly to age but also to the fact that they have learned how to navigate on the flexible labor markets (Lippman, 2008, 1285-6; see also Beck, 2000; Predelli & Cebulla, 2011). As Stephen Lippman (2008, 1285) has concluded: 'The flexible employment relationships that are a key characteristic of the "new" economy present a complicated mix of risks and opportunities for workers.' The age cohorts who enter the labor market during a recession or a period of economic uncertainty, and therefore have to learn to adapt to find their place in the working life, can be called young flexible workers-a term that also describes the return migrants of this article.

The article examines two groups of Finnish citizens of equal age who live abroad in two different years, in 1999 and in 2004, and return migrate the following years, namely in 2000 and 2005. The groups were formed to facilitate best possible comparison with the dataset that covers the years 1988-2007 in the lives of the 10% cohort of Finns born in specific years (1963, 1968, 1973, and 1978). The focus on those who lived abroad in 1999 and 2004 allows 3 years to pass for both groups after the return to Finland. While some uncontrolled selectivity issues may still remain, this comparison makes it possible to examine the situation of two statistically representative groups before and after migration. Thus, the article contributes to discussions on changing migration patterns in Europe and the labor market impact of return migration. The findings are contrasted with the work of Jan Saarela and Fjalar Finnäs (2009a, 2009b) who found that the odds of employment of Finnish migrants returning from Sweden in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s were only about half those of their non-migrant counterparts. …

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