Migrating Later in Life: Older Polish Migrants in the UK




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Despite the plethora of research on migration, little is known about behaviours and experiences of older working age migrants. This thesis focuses on Polish migrants aged 45 – 65, who have arrived in the UK since 2004 looking for work and better opportunities. The purpose of the study is to explore links between age and migration by investigating older migrants who are still economically active. Thirty five interviews were carried out across the UK using an oral history qualitative approach. These migrants were particularly affected by redundancy during the transitional period from socialism to capitalism in Poland; they then found it almost impossible to find other work because of their age. The decision to migrate may have been influenced by an early exposure to Western influences; however, it was the impact of unemployment and debt that led to a re-evaluation of their lives. Although they may be at different family stages, these older migrants’ shared background and perception of their lack of value has shaped their migration experience. They represent parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, married couples, widows and single persons; this age group gives a more complete and nuanced picture of family life and relationships. The emotional costs are high when families are separated through migration, especially when elderly parents are involved. Despite the wide age range, family experiences are often very similar, with preferences for staying at home and watching Polish television. However, the opportunity of employment in the UK has given them an economic and social value no longer available to them in their homeland. As so much of their life course has been invested in Poland, many see no need to learn English; it is not a priority as they have virtual social interactions with family and friends in Poland and continue to inhabit a Polish-speaking world. This age group are also more likely to be pioneer migrants, accessing new destinations.



older economic migrants, family life stage, Polish migration



Research Institute