People in the increasingly mobile world


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An unprecedented number of individuals are currently on the move across national boundaries, and an increasing number of people exercise their occupation in two or more countries. The chains of transnational movements have also lengthened and spread considerably. People may leave one country, for various reasons, move to a second, and then either return to their initial home country, or move on to a third. They may also live in one country and cross a national border on a regular basis to work in another.

While considerable attention has been paid by researchers and policy-makers to the drivers and patterns of border-crossing migration, an analysis of the characteristics of temporary transnational mobility has been largely lacking. In February 2014 a world-wide research project Transnational Migration in Transition: Transformative Characteristics of Temporary Mobility of People (EURA-NET) was launched by the European Commission to attain an understanding of the current characteristics and related policy impact of temporary transnational migration and mobility.

The basic research question addressed in the project is: What are the transformative characteristics and development impacts of the temporary mobility of people and what are their policy implications in the migrants sending and receiving regions, as well as in the countries of transit.

Research data will be gathered through interviews with migrants and policy-makers in China, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as in wider European and international contexts. The research findings in the European-Asian context will provide insights to be applied to other world regions.

In the previous research literature, there is no commonly accepted definition to temporary migration. There is also little understanding of how temporary migration is different from permanent migration and from other forms of non-permanent transnational migratory movements, such as circular migration, pendular migration, seasonal migration, incomplete migration, return migration, and so on.

Even the term ‘migrant’ is not clearly defined at its conception as no universally accepted definition for the term exists. The United Nations defines migrant as an individual who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate. Under such a definition, those travelling for shorter periods as tourists and businesspersons would not be considered migrants. However, common usage includes certain kinds of shorter-term migrants, such as seasonal farm-workers who travel for short periods to work planting or harvesting farm products.

Thus, a key question to be solved in the EURA-NET project is how temporary migrants should be defined. When following the UN definition, migrants may be characterized as temporary in case they reside in a foreign country for less than one year.  It could also be taken into account that migrants with temporary migration intentions (either by the migrants themselves or the receiving societies) may be seen as temporary, even if they stay in the host country more than one year (e.g. degree students).

EURA-NET (http.// is coordinated by the University of Tampere (Finland) and is funded by the ECs 7th Framework Programme (2,5 Million Euros) for the period 2014-2017. See also project flyer .


Pirkko Pitkänen

Professor of Educational Policy and Multicultural Education, University of Tampere, Finland

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