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This paper explores the role of intra-household tensions and conflicts of interest in explaining the diverse return and pendulum migration strategies among Moroccan migrants who first migrated to Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. Migration strategies and motivations of migrants and their households are explored through an analysis of survey and interview data collected in the Todgha valley, a migrant sending region located in southeast Morocco. While labour migration was part of broader household strategies to improve their living standards and material wellbeing, the study reveals that motivations to return are highly diverse and suggest that the issue of return can be a significant source of intra-household conflicts. This particularly applies to migrants who unilaterally decided not to reunify their families in Europe and to return after their active working life. Children who are left behind face situations of mass unemployment and an overall lack of perspective, and, hence, tend to be highly frustrated about their situation of ‘involuntary immobility’ and frequently resent their fathers for having blocked their access to Europe. Ageing migrants who did reunite their family, on the other hand, often do not fulfil their long-standing wish to return. While their spouses often oppose or refuse to return, also their children generally have an interest in staying because of better education and employment opportunities. Hence, an increasing proportion of (predominantly male) migrants seem to adopt a pendular migration strategy, which seems a second-best strategy to reconcile their wish to stay in Morocco with the reluctance of children and spouses to return for good, as well as their own interest in securing access to social welfare, health care and residency rights in Europe. This exemplifies that theories which portray international migration as the outcome of household decisions run the risk of reifying the household as a unit which takes unanimous decisions to the benefit of all, which may mask significant intra-household gender and age inequalities.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

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