Academic journal article Migration Letters

Twice as Many Helpers: Unpacking the Connection between Marriage Migration and Older Labour Immigrants' Access to Family Support

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Twice as Many Helpers: Unpacking the Connection between Marriage Migration and Older Labour Immigrants' Access to Family Support

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the 1990s, a substantial share of migration research has applied a transnational perspective, seeing the lives of ethnic minorities as unfolding in transnational social spaces, spanning the borders of two or more nation-states (Basch et al., 1994; Bryceson and Vuorela, 2002). Part of this research focuses on transnational family networks, including a strand of studies investigating how new families are formed. Such studies bring out both the extent of and manifold reasons underlying marriage migration - including the renewal of links to the ancestral 'home-land', expansion of available marriage markets, and provision of legal routes of entry into affluent host countries with increasingly restrictive migration regimes (Beck-Gernsheim, 2007, 2011; Charsley, 2012). Compared to other groups, immigrants from Turkey have had a high proclivity for transnational marriages (Carol et al., 2014; Milewski and Hamel, 2010; Van Kerckem et al., 2013). The rate of Turkish transnational marriages has been particularly high in Denmark, some studies in the 1990s finding that around 80-90 per cent of the labour immigrants' children were finding their spouses in Turkey (Celikaksoy Mortensen, 2006; Liversage, 2013). This high rate can be tied to the first generation of Turkish immigrants in Denmark generally having little education and being of rural origin, hence being more prone to reproducing traditional patterns of family formations (Bernhardt et al., 2007). The level of Turkish marriage migration to Denmark has fallen off in recent years, due to both the introduction of the new legislation around 2002 and increasing levels of education among immigrant offspring.

Other studies of transnational family networks have focused on reproduction and shifting norms and practises regarding 'filial responsibilities', that is, the extent to which adult children support their elderly parents. Of central interest here have been the effects of migration from more collectively to more individualistically oriented societies on such norms and practices. This research interest is timely: Since much of the immigration to north-western Europe occurred as labour immigration around 1970, this first generation of labour immigrants is now growing old in increasing numbers, and the care and support which such aging immigrants receive is an issue of increasing scholarly and practical concern (Burr and Mutchler, 1999; de Valk and Schans, 2008; Naldemirci, 2013).

The two phenomena - marriage migration and family support within families (i.e. fulfilling filial responsibilities) - obviously might be linked, as new marriage migrants renew ties to their country of origin, where filial responsibilities are generally attributed greater importance than in the destination country. The purpose of this article, however, is to draw attention to how marriage migration possibly also affects the practice of filial responsibility in another manner: Marriage migration may strongly shape the presence and absence of family members across the transnational social space. Thus, when a couple is formed through a transnational marriage, the migrating spouse may leave his or her parents behind in the country of origin. Hence, such a couple may have only one - and not two - sets of gradually aging parents present in the country of residence. As care and support are intimately linked to physical proximity, this structural aspect of marriage migration is central to the subsequent provision of support to older family members. Nevertheless, to this author's knowledge, this link has hitherto remained unexplored.

Understanding the demographic aspect of marriage migration as the patterned distribution of specific family relations across transnational social space, the research question in this article is, thus, the following: How are practices of family support towards aging first-generation immigrants affected by their children predominantly having spouses who arrived as marriage migrants? …

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