The importance of families

Did you take your family with you overseas or did you leave them behind?

Family of four sitting in a park

A huge question for many expats is whether to travel overseas with or without family members. And the decision to take or not to take family can be one that makes or breaks the success of an overseas assignment. It’s also a massive consideration for economic and humanitarian migrants. Do they leave family members behind, often in dangerous situations, or do they take them with them and risk not being able to house them?

Perhaps you don’t think of your expat life as one of ‘global migration’ – the umbrella theme of this blog – and don’t think humanitarian and “expat” migrants should be talked about in the same sentence? In my humble opinion, we shouldn’t all be included in the same statistics. However, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) does place all together in their migration statistics. Do you agree with that? Let me know in the comments section below.

The 2017 International Migration Outlook shows that permanent migration flows to the OECD countries have been on the rise, with around 5 million people migrating permanently to OECD countries in 2016, as compared to 4.7 million entries in 2015. This was the third year of increase in a row. Humanitarian migration was the main driver behind this rise.

Family migration is the single largest component of total migration flows in OECD countries, according to the OECD. The relative weight of family migration varies from one OECD country to another (see the graph below).

Global migration OECD family migration statistics
Global migration OECD family migration statistics

The main reasons for migration due to family ties says the OECD are:

• reunification with earlier migrated family members
• family accompanying principal migrant
• marriage between a migrant and a national
• marriage between a migrant and a foreigner living abroad
• international adoption

How do families integrate in their new country? Are there things the receiving country can do to welcome ‘migrating families’, whether they are “expats” or “migrants”? The OECD has identified 9 European cities, with good practices that have learned lessons about integrating newcomers. Sweden and Germany have been particularly highlighted for their good integration policies. You can read their report here.

Temporary migration – of the expat type – has increased in the OECD, with the number of workers sent by their employers to other EU countries under local contracts reaching 1.5 million in 2015. International recruitment of seasonal workers increased in many countries, particularly in Poland. The number of international students also continues to increase, and new residence permits issued exceeded 1.5 million for the first time in 2015, according to the OECD’s 2017 International Migration Outlook report.

Do you think all types of migrants should be counted together?