Panel B.04 — Left behind, but not forgotten – Parental work migration and the crucial role of education for transnational family organisation

Convenors Tanja Schroot (University of Turin, Italy); Georgiana Udrea (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Romania)

Keywords transnational family organisation, education as migration driver, left-behind children


Thousands of children are annually left behind by their parents who decide to live and work abroad (Bălțătescu 2023; Unicef 2020; Zhu et al. 2023). Within decisional processes towards short-or long-term migration and a transnational family organisation and lifestyle, education plays often a central role. In fact, international research (Handler, 2018; Udrea & Guiu, 2022) confirms that a rather high share of parents departs to improve their working and economic conditions and to provide for better educational opportunities. In the host context, the recognition and valorisation of migrants’ educational background steers their professional integration and therefore the expected and actual outputs of the migratory project, that are supposed to compensate for the sacrifices made.

However, the global health emergency caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing wars in Europe and the Middle East have not solely challenged mobility projects on a local and temporal scale, but have also shifted the outcomes and benefits of migration. Indeed, the effects of parental work migration on children’s educational trajectories may span from positive to detrimental (Botezat & Pfeiffer, 2019; Cappelloni 2011; Fiore, 2022), and are further hampered by the current global socio-political and economic situation. Consequently, migrant parents are often exposed to an immense pressure from their own families, the broader society and through media and research, that maintain a highly critical perspective on the practice of separating families across international borders. Additional research is therefore essential to establish the conditions for framing family separation as a means of achieving educational progress and, consequently, to explore the potential benefits of parental labour mobility.

Building on these premises, this panel aims to focus on the role of education within families’ decision-making processes towards internal and international migration and related transnational family organisation. Particular attention should be paid to education as (main) driver for parental work migration. Thus, potential contributions should investigate which role educational and professional advancement of the migrant parents themselves, on the one hand, and the enhanced educational prospects and opportunities for their left behind children, on the other, play in shaping the migratory project. In this context, it is crucial to embed research findings into the current socio-political scenario and shed light on migrant practices and strategies to assess expected outcomes. A central concern of this proposal is to move from judgemental constructions to a rather holistic picture of transnational family organisation and, accordingly, of care delegations. It should consider all actors involved in the different geographical, temporal and social contexts in which migratory projects are located and provide valuable insights to facilitate a contextual assessment of risks and opportunities.


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