Lives and plans of Polish migrant families in Edinburgh
Ramasawmy, Lucy Jane
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This thesis takes as its subject Polish families who migrated to Edinburgh after Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004. It analyses the families’ post-migration trajectories and experiences, and investigates how these are influenced by factors relating to Polish history and culture, by features particular to the post-accession migration wave and by families’ individual characteristics. Theoretical approaches are drawn from a range of academic disciplines including, reference group theory, literature relating to gender-division of paid work and child-care, and ‘mobilities’ theory, and these approaches are all employed in exploring the factors that influence family members’ integration, employment and lifestyles and their plans for the future. This qualitative study focuses on the experiences of thirty families living in and around Edinburgh in the two years from 2009 to 2011, and combines a variety of methods in data-collection and in analysis. Families were interviewed twice with a year lapse between interviews, couples were interviewed jointly and conversational interviews were supplemented with questionnaires. These design features enable analysis of change over time, provide insight into family-dynamics and generate a range of forms of data. In analysis the combination of thematic coding of interview transcripts with Qualitative Comparative Analysis, allows in-depth exploration of experiences at the individual and family level to be positioned within the context of trends and patterns observed across the whole group. The study finds that the families fall into distinct types according to particular key characteristics and migration strategies, and that the different family types are linked to different experiences of life in Scotland and plans for the future. Younger migrants who arrived independently, decided to stay and later started families are found to be embarking on new careers and making use of the greater flexibility of the employment market in the UK to enact their preferred division of work and childcare. In line with previous research findings, for families whose oldest child is preschool age, school start date in Poland is identified as critical in limiting the period in which parents feel the decision about whether to return can be made. Parents who migrated with school-age children because of financial hardship in Poland are highlighted in this study as a previously under-researched post-accession migrant group; among these families most parents within the study group are found to have been considering permanent settlement at the time of migration and to be maintaining this intention; their decision to stay is particularly influenced by concerns about the difficulties that they anticipate their children would encounter in re-entering the school system in Poland and about their own reduced ability to re-enter the labour market there after de-skilling in employment in the UK. Parents who migrated to take up professional work in the UK are identified as possessing the highest levels of ‘motility’, that is, capacity to make use of mobility generally; among the study group these parents are found to have the most varied options and future plans and to be those who indicate the greatest likelihood of leaving the UK in the short term.