This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

More Children Left Behind

I recently discussed the situation in Armenia, where women are left behind because the men have migrated (especially to Russia) in search of jobs and money to remit. The Migration Policy Institute has just published a report on children being left behind in two other former Soviet republics--Moldova and Ukraine--as their parents also search for work elsewhere (with men going largely to Russia to work in construction alongside the Armenians). The story on Armenia mentioned the toll on wives of having husbands gone, but there was no mention of the children. The MPI story focuses on them.
Left-behind children face numerous adverse effects of parental migration including problems related to school, such as deteriorating academic performance, declining attendance, and a lack of motivation. In Moldova, 22 percent of migrants’ children do not attend school. Health concerns may arise, including drug use and undermined or deteriorating health, as children with migrant parents may not solicit help when needed. Family stability and future development are also at stake. Divorce is common among Moldovan migrants. Children left behind lack job opportunities and may develop psycho-emotional problems often associated with an inferiority complex. This can lead to youth unemployment and juvenile delinquency, with high rates of each in Moldova and Ukraine. Left-behind children are also vulnerable to human trafficking and labor exploitation.
Reading this report led my mind quite naturally back to Central America, where children left behind are exploited and often seek to find their parents by migrating on their own, as my PhD student, Liz Kennedy, has been researching. It also raises interesting questions about citizenship and the vagueness of that concept when family members are in different countries, and receiving economic benefits from more than one place. In essence, migration of people who are married with children (as opposed to the more "traditional" form of single people, usually males, being migrants) undermines some of the common notions of what is a nation-state. To be sure, in the case of former Soviet Republics, the migration of men, in particular, tends to be toward Russia--the former "mother" country, so there may be a certain fuzziness there about who belongs where. Vladimir Putin obviously is of the opinion that the Ukraine is really still a part of Russia, for example.

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