Return and Family-Joining Older Migrants

Alongside the two main types of older migrants, there are others about which much less is known. The most apparent are 'return migrants', the labor migrants of long residence who return to their native regions and countries when they cease work. They are themselves diverse, and their migrations straddle internal and international moves. In all countries, some who moved to the capital or largest commercial cities of a country from rural provinces return to their native regions when they retire, and some make similar returns across an international boundary. Large numbers of Irish citizens return to Ireland after spending most of their working lives in the United Kingdom, and the same applies to Canadians whose careers were in the United States. Only a few of these moves have attracted systematic study and published accounts, but careful studies show that many returns are problematic, partly because the people and the settlements they left decades before have radically changed. The rate of return is influenced by whether the origin country is politically stable, has a strong welfare system, and a clement climate. Among European labor migrants in Australia, for example, there is a higher rate of return to Italy and Malta than to the United Kingdom or the former Yugoslavian Republic.

Social security and insurance agencies in Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom publish statistics on the number of their clients receiving old age benefits that are resident in other countries. The total number of UK State Pensioners living abroad exceeded 1 million for the first time early in 2007 (approximating one in eight of all recipients). These data also show that other types of migration in later life are more voluminous than either 'amenity led' or 'return' migrations. For both the Germans and the British, the largest overseas beneficiary populations are in the United States, Canada, and Australia (Table 1). There are many German recipients in Austria, Switzerland, and Brazil, and there are many British recipients in Ireland and Germany. The clear inference is that there are substantial flows of family joining migrants who follow their children's earlier migrations, and that the dispersion is influenced by long established colonial, economic, and armed forces connections. While the processes and consequences of family joining migrations have been studied among recent intercontinental labor migrants into Europe and North America, the comparable flows out of north west
Europe continue to be neglected.