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Migrating Youth Worldwide: Good Idea?

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What happens to all those youngsters in search of a better life?

migration countries, country migration, research urban poverty, youth

The journal The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science  just dedicated a whole volume to the influential, but rarely highlighted, phenomenon of migrating youth from developing countries. Twelve different studies investigate the youngster’s hopes and attainments.

More than 18 percent of the world population is aged between 18 and 24. Besides entering the job market, establishing romantic relationships and moving out of the familyhouse, a lot of them migrate to the city or even to a the North-Western continents. Are those big moves worth it?

Two studies paint a sad economic picture of young migrants. One investigated rural-urban youth migration in China. These youngsters are often institutionally excluded and hindered to succeed in city life, achieving a lower socio-economic status than local youth or urban-urban young migrants. Youth migrating from Mexico to the United States also have a hard time. Despite social vulnerability they can be high academic achievers, but their legal status restricts eventual employment.

Other studies show that migration within developing countries seems to alter romantic and sexual perspectives. In India migration increases chances of experiencing romantic relationships and initiating sex before marriage. Rural-to-urban young migrants in Kenya are more likely to become pregnant before marriage. Finally, in sub-saharan Africa, young migrants are more vulnerable to contracting HIV compared to nonmigrants.

And then there are the reasons for migration. While in Mauritania boys often move short distances for economic reasons, young women often choose to do so because of individual needs: they want to explore the outside world. In Mali we also see a gender difference. Boys aim to strenghten their position in the family, while the girl’s goal is learning. The girls hereby increase their self-esteem and open up individual possibilities, while boys migrations are more in line with family strategies.

Finally, two studies confirm the already documented motivations for Senegalese and Mauritanians to move to Europe. Most important are social prestige, the idealized role of migrant and obligation towards the family. These findings, as the journal writes, ‘highlight the enormous challenge of  designing policy that could effectively halt high-risk youth migration to Europe.’

Photo: Flickr, Vicki & Chuck Rogers
Source:
Fatima Juárez, Thomas LeGrand, Cynthia B. Lloyd, Susheela Singh, & Véronique Hertrich (2013). Youth Migration and Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science DOI: 10.1177/0002716213485052

migration countries, country migration, research urban poverty,

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