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Social Remittances: Return Migrants as Agents of Change

Research domain:
Livelihoods in rural areas

Project duration:
since 01.10.2018

It is widely accepted today that financial remittances can constitute an important component of poverty alleviation and economic development of migrant sending countries. However, recent literature has shown that limiting the contribution migrants can make to the development of their countries of origin to economic aspects falls short. Rather, migrants also transfer intangible goods, so called social remittances, as for instance values or beliefs. An emerging literature has shown that migrants amongst others transfer ideas of gender equality, liberal democracy and tolerance. However, the majority of this literature remains merely descriptive. Studies, which investigate how ideas are transferred and what motivates return migrants to engage for social change, are scarce.

Since migrants often come from and return to rural areas, which are often still more ‘traditional’ than their urban counterparts, returning ‘agents of change’ may face more barriers in a rural environment, but may also act as seeds to ‘modernization’ and development.

Therefore, the central aims of this project are to

(1) analyze under which conditions migrants adopt new ideas during their migration experience to be transferred as social remittances;
(2) analyze how and under which conditions they are able and willing to diffuse social remittances upon their return;
(3) compare the potential of different groups of returnees to contribute to social change in rural and urban contexts within their countries of origin;
(4) provide policy recommendation on how to support returnees in their engagement for social change.

The regional focus of the project Southeastern Europe. Methodologically we aim at a mixed-methods approach using primary data collected during field visits.