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Immigration, Integration and Return Migration: The Swedish Experience

  • Martin Klinthäll
Publiceringsår: 2008
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Population Bulletin of the United Nations
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: United Nations


Return migration is an important phenomenon that involves a large share of all migrants, and has great potential for the enhancement of economic development, for instance through remittances and investments by migrants who are still abroad, and “brain gain” when migrants return with working experience from their former host countries. This paper deals with return migration, by refugee immigrants as well as labor migrants and retirees, with reference to empirical evidence from Sweden. Return migration from Sweden, as well as from other western societies, has decreased considerably over the last decades, primarily due to a change in the composition of immigrant populations. Labor migrants, who dominated immigration prior to the recruitment halt in the early 1970s, generally display high rates of return migration, frequently higher than 50 percent. Refugees, on the other hand, who have dominated immigration from the 1970s onwards, have displayed low rates of return migration, primarily due to the security situation in their home countries. Analyses of Swedish population register data shows that return migrants tend to be positively selected in terms of income and education, which is beneficial for origin countries. However, migration tends to be positively selected in general and therefore, temporary migration has high potential for enhancing economic development, in origin countries as well as in destination countries. Destination countries benefit from a positively selected immigration, whereas origin countries benefit from positively selected return migration. Future labor migration flows, such as labor migration from new to old member states of the EU, are therefore expected to be positively selected, both when it comes to immigration and return migration, and return migration rates will probably be relatively high. Refugee crises in the 1990s led to a change in the direction of policy discussions, from an emphasis on permanent residence rights for refugees to a focus on temporary protection and repatriation. The Swedish experience shows that political improvements in refugee source countries cannot be expected to result in large-scale return migration, unless the changes are accompanied by economic stability. The difference between Chileans and Poles, regarding their migratory response to democratization at home, can be attributed to large difference in economic opportunities for return migrants in Chile relative to Poland in the years after 1990. Positive income selectivity among return migrants indicates that return migration is resource demanding and thus, marginalized immigrants will have worse opportunities for return migration. Institutional arrangements regarding refugee reception and measures for economic integration of refugees are therefore crucial for societies that want to encourage return migration to former refugee sources. Temporary residence models are inefficient when it comes to economic integration of immigrants and may undermine their own purpose, i.e. return migration by refugees. Permanent residence models, in contrast, allow migrants to be more efficient regarding host country-specific investments and, as a result, such models are more likely to provide economic integration of immigrants and increase opportunities for return migration.


  • Economic History



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