Family matters: migration and childbearing decisions of ‘new’ Poles in the UK

Paulina Trevena, University of Southampton
Derek McGhee, University of Southampton
Sue Heath, University of Manchester

Following the rapid migration wave from Poland to the UK triggered by the 2004 EU Enlargement, the Polish community has become the single largest foreign national group in the country. Although Polish migration was initially seen as a transient phenomenon dominated by young and single males with no dependants, the significant increase in numbers of Polish pupils in British schools and the current ‘Polish baby boom’ in the UK point to a shift towards family settlement and family formation. Why is this so? What is the overall role of the family in the migration process? Are the Polish families in the UK to stay? These are the questions we would like to discuss. Our analysis is based on the results of a large-scale qualitative study (‘International migration and its impact on family and household formation among Polish migrants living in England and Scotland’) involving 83 in-depth interviews with Polish migrants living in four different locations across the UK, both urban and rural. We have found that in the case of couples, especially those with children, family issues play a crucial role in the process of migration and settlement in the UK. In the case of family migration, the general pattern still is for the father to migrate first, typically with a view to temporary economic migration. However, his stay is frequently prolonged and ultimately results in the relocation of the whole nuclear (and often also wider) family to the UK. Polish migrants, especially those who struggled to make ends meet in Poland, are keen to bring over their children and, in the case of childless couples, to start a family in the UK because of three major reasons: the availability of work, the relatively higher living standards and the security of living in a country with a well-developed welfare system.

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Presented in Session 27: Immigrant fertility II