Theory and practice of return migration at retirement: The case of migrant worker hostel residents in France

Alistair Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transition to retirement marks an appropriate juncture for older migrants to relocate to countries of origin if so desired. As recent survey data from France demonstrate, most older immigrants are well integrated and prefer to live out their old age in the host country. This paper examines return decisions at retirement in the case of older men living in migrant worker hostel accommodation, who seem on first inspection to be far from integrated in France. Despite this lack of integration, they tend not to return definitively to places of origin at retirement. Instead, their preference is for regular back-and-forth trips. In order to make sense of these mobility decisions, several theories of migration are presented and evaluated against qualitative data from interviews conducted in several hostels in the Paris region in spring and summer 2008. While no one theory adequately accounts for all the phenomena observed, the evaluation shows that at various points in the data there is support for several theories. The added value of each theory becomes most apparent when levels of analysis are kept distinct: at the household level as regards remittances; at the kinship-village level as regards reintegration in the home context; at the meso-level of ethnic communities in terms of migrants' transnational ties; and at the macro-level of social systems concerning inclusion in healthcare and administrative organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-192
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number2
Early online date2 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

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