In the first year of the YOUMIG project extensive research was carried out at all seven partner localities, resulting in an analysis embracing many issues concerning youth migration. These local-level comprehensive case studies – titled “local status quo analyses” – represent cornerstones of YOUMIG project research and will enable municipalities to elaborate evidence-based strategies and policies to deal with the impact of the immigration, emigration and return migration of young people in the Danube region. This analysis will take us inside Szeged (Hungary), Graz (Austria), Maribor (Slovenia), Sfântu Gheorghe (Romania), Burgas (Bulgaria), Rača-Bratislava (Slovakia) and Kanjiža (Serbia) for a closer look on challenges linked to youth migration.
The research design for conducting local inquiries was developed by two academic partners in YOUMIG. The conceptual and theoretical framework was provided by the University of Vienna research team, while the methodological tools were developed by the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities. The latter is also in charge of coordinating data collection and completing field research in the seven localities involved, as well as for preparing a comparative analysis of the cases.
In order to capture the multiple facets of migration, the research uses a complex methodology which yields both quantitative and qualitative data. While the quantitative component is based mostly on a secondary analysis of extant statistical data, the qualitative element implies gathering and interpreting genuinely new data. Qualitative methods of data collection encompass different types of interviews and focus group discussions through which all main parties concerned in migration are given a voice: institutional actors, receiving or sending local communities, and the migrants themselves.
The aim of the interviews conducted with institutional actors and civil representatives of local communities was, on the one hand, to identify the main trends of immigration, emigration and return migration in the locality, and to capture local discourses concerning migration, and the stakeholders’ perceptions on the relationship between migration and development. On the other hand, the aim was to map existing policies and programs concerning migration and youth, and to learn whether or not institutional stakeholders considered that they possessed the institutional capacities to alter or influence migratory behaviour and to deal with extant and future consequences of migration. This group of interviewees included local level decision-makers, actors representing the educational, social and healthcare institutions, labour and unemployment offices, employers of migrant workforce, NGOs dealing with migrants, and other institutions considered relevant by local experts. YOUMIG partners in almost all cases completed at least eight interviews, hence, this component of the research resulted in 64 interviews with institutional actors.
In the next phase of the research, young migrants aged between 18–35 years were interviewed. The structure of the discussion was conceived in a way to capture both self-representations of the interviewees and particular information targeted by the project. As one of the aims was to gain insight into the ways migrants subjectively define and represent themselves, respondents were first asked to present their life stories with a focus on migratory experiences. In the second part of the interview, they were asked to provide further biographical data and information concerning their family background, including education, labour market experiences, and data about close relatives and their migration experience. The migratory trajectory of the interviewee was retaken in the second part of the discussion too, this time explicitly focusing on the motivations, material and human resources related to migration, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the destination locality and the town of origin. As the main focus of the YOUMIG research is on migration patterns in the Danube region, interview subjects were selected to represent migration from or to Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Naturally, other aspects which refine the picture were taken into account, too, like gender, education and family status. This research activity resulted in 62 very detailed personal accounts as inputs into YOUMIG analysis.
The third phase of data collection consisted of focus groups with young persons with migratory experiences. The discussions from this module targeted specifically the administrative aspects of migration, existing policies and programmes related to migration, as well as those areas where participants considered that some measures were missing. The main aim of these discussions was to provide policy-relevant input for local decision-makers and other stakeholders. Hence, discussions tackled experiences in contacting specific institutions (for instance, those responsible for issuing residence and employment permits, taxation, housing, healthcare, recognition of diplomas etc.), as well as the specific policies, programmes or measures locally employed. Participants were asked to evaluate existing measures, as well as to formulate recommendations to the authorities involved in managing migration-related issues.
Processing the collected information has been the main task of YOUMIG local experts. The analyses were finalised at the end of 2017, and they are soon to be available in the Library section of the YOUMIG website and featured by country in the relevant sections.
Text by Ágnes Kiss (RIRNM)
Photos by Lehel Dobra