Will the emigrants ever come back?

Given Latvia’s deteriorating demographic situation, the possible return of emigrants can be extremely important. Figure 4.10 summarises information on Latvian emigrants’ intentions to return, as reported in the NIPCM survey. On average, 8% of emigrants intend to (or would like to) return within six months, while about 20% of emigrants entertain the possibility of returning within five years. A more recent survey of users of the Latvian social network Draugiem.lv residing in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Norway and Sweden produced a similar result: only 23% of respondents plan to return to Latvia within the next five years, 65% plan to stay abroad longer than five years, and 12% plan to move to another country (Krisjane et al., 2012). These findings are in striking contrast with the situation observed in 2005-06, when two-thirds of emigrants having left Latvia in 2004-05 were planning to return within two years, most of them (almost half of all emigrants) even within one year (Hazans and Philips, 2010, Figure 9). In fact, in 2002-07, more than half of Latvian guest-workers13 returned home within one year, according to the Latvian LFS (Hazans, 2009, p. 19; Hazans and Philips, 2010, Figure 10). These data support hypothesis (H3)-(d) namely that Latvian emigrants who left during the crisis are to a much larger extent oriented towards long-term or permanent emigration.

Ethnicity and citizenship are also associated with intentions to return, with non-Latvians having no Latvian citizenship show the lowest propensity to return: only 8% within five years (Figure 4.10). Tertiary- and secondary-educated Latvian emigrants are more likely to return than their counterparts who do not have a secondary education. When different destination countries are compared, it appears that Latvian emigrants in Ireland have the lowest propensity to return within five years (Figure 4.10).

The proportion of emigrants intending to return sharply declines as the duration of stay abroad increases. Thus, among those who left Latvia less than a year ago, one-fifth plan to return within six months, and more than one-third contemplate return within five years. By comparison, these proportions fall to 3% and 15%, respectively, among emigrants who stayed abroad between three and five years.

? Plans to return within the next six months ? Plans to return within five years (but not within six months)

Figure 4.10. Intentions to return within six months and within five years, among emigrants from Latvia, by ethnicity and citizenship, educational attainment, destination and duration of stay abroad, 2010-11

Percentage

Source: Author’s calculations based on data from NIPCM, December 2010 to January 2011.

 
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