Aged Labor Migrants

A contrasting group of older migrants comprises labor migrants who have reached old age in the countries to which they moved in their early adult years. They are also socially diverse, but in Europe very many migrated from the Caribbean, north and west Africa, Turkey, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent to the cities of northwest Europe from the 1950s to the 1970s. Many came from depressed rural areas, had relatively little education, and acquired few formal or technical job skills. They are now some of the most disadvantaged and socially excluded older people in Western Europe. They are markedly heterogeneous, not just in origins and cultural and ethnic characteristics, but also in the extent to which they have raised children and formed social networks in their chosen country – important factors in their ability both to develop satisfying roles when no longer in work and, should their capacities decline, to turn to informal family and community support. There is also considerable diversity in their knowledge of, entitlements to, and utilization of state income, social housing, social service, and healthcare benefits and services.

Migrations by older people and their residential space–time patterns have become more diverse with the growth of second (or more) home owning and with the reduced costs of international air travel and telecommunications. Seasonal and transnational residence patterns are probably growing more quickly than clean break, 'total displacement' retirement moves, and it seems likely that the once clear distinction between 'retirement' and 'return' migrations is becoming blurred. There are multiplying reports from The Netherlands, BelgiumNorway, Sweden, and Switzerland that an increasing number of international labor migrants who reach retirement have maintained social contacts and residences (or residential opportunities) in both their adopted and their origin countries – and some in third countries too. Transnational lifestyles have recently attracted much attention from migration researchers, but only rarely with reference to older people. Ever since the studies in the early 1990s of Canadian retirees' 'snowbird' seasonal migration to Florida it has been known, however, that some skillfully manipulate their entitlements to health care, social security, and other benefits (and their tax liabilities) in both origin and destination countries by programmed moves between the two. Some also derive much satisfaction from having different social networks and activities in two locations.