Childbearing and Parental Decisions of Intra EU Migrants

A Biographical Analysis of Polish Migrants to the UK and Italy

by Weronika Kloc-Nowak (Author)
©2018 Monographs XIV, 198 Pages


The book explores intra-EU mobility of Polish families as seen by the migrants themselves. The author analyses in what way mobility has influenced their choices regarding if, when and where to have and raise their children. She evaluates how the family dynamics have affected their decisions regarding long-term settlement. The analysis is based on narrative biographic interviews with Polish migrants in Great Britain and Italy. A recurring experience of migrants in the UK was that work and welfare conditions improved their families’ quality of life, allowed them to fulfil desired fertility, and offered better prospects for the future. The opinions on welfare conditions in Italy were more critical, however it also offered long-term stability to the ones who had been struggling to survive in Poland.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of contents
  • List of tables
  • List of figures
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Contextual and conceptual background and aims of the study
  • 1.1 Theoretical perspectives on female and family migration and their application to Polish migration to the UK and Italy
  • 1.2 Research questions and outline of the analysis
  • 1.3 The relationship between migration and fertility decisions
  • 1.4 Migrants’ parental decisions in the institutional context
  • Chapter 2. Methods and techniques of data collection and analysis
  • 2.1 Grounded theory
  • 2.2 Biographical method
  • 2.3 Sociological life course approach
  • 2.4 Participants’ selection
  • 2.5 Techniques of data collection
  • Chapter 3. Post-accession migration from Poland to Italy and the UK in the demographic, family and welfare policies contexts
  • 3.1 Demographic characteristics of post-EU accession Polish migrants
  • 3.2 Polish immigrants in Italy
  • 3.3 Polish immigrants in the UK
  • 3.4 Selected family living patterns
  • 3.5 Family welfare regulations
  • 3.6 Conclusions: migrating into different socio-economic contexts
  • Chapter 4. Managing childbearing in a new country
  • 4.1 Factors taken into account in planning childbearing
  • 4.2 When life does not go the way it was planned
  • 4.3 Impact of pregnancy on women’s economic activity
  • 4.4 Conclusions
  • Chapter 5. Providing care for small children
  • 5.1 Anticipating childcare arrangements
  • 5.2 Organising childcare
  • 5.3 Attitudes to spending time with and caring for one’s children
  • 5.4 Grandparents’ assistance in caring for grandchildren
  • 5.5 Conclusions
  • Chapter 6. Educational choices of Polish parents abroad
  • 6.1 Preparing to start school in the country of immigration
  • 6.2 Choices regarding education of migrant teenagers
  • 6.3 Educating Polish children abroad: language and culture
  • 6.4 Class and attitudes to education
  • 6.5 Gendered division of responsibility for schooling
  • 6.6 Conclusions
  • Chapter 7. Construction of the trajectories of Polish intra-EU migrants in a biographical perspective
  • 7.1 Struggle for survival, followed by search for stability
  • 7.2 Lifestyle preferences as a basis for settlement
  • 7.3 Delayed but unavoidable migration
  • 7.4 “Pace of change” – the progress reinforcing the decision for settlement
  • 7.5 Sacrifice for love and family
  • 7.6 The relation between settlement and the original migration project
  • 7.7 Conclusions
  • Conclusions
  • Annex 1. Profiles of the interviewees
  • References
  • Series Index

← X | XI →

List of tables

← XII | XIII →

List of figures

← XIV | 1 →


The present book is not about transnational parenthood and children left behind. Considering that the post-EU enlargement migration was in principle a reaction to the opening of the labour markets, it is striking how many children migrated with their parents. According to the 2011 Polish national population census, there were 172,892 emigrant children under the age of 16 – hence definitely not workers – staying abroad together with their migrant parent(s) (Central Statistical Office, 2015). The host countries reported even higher numbers. In the 2011 censuses the total number of children with Polish citizenship (both immigrant and born abroad) recorded in just five EU countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Sweden) exceeded 253,000 (own calculation based on Kaczorowski, 2015). The number of Polish children outside Poland continues to increase as more migrants have children abroad. In only one country – the UK – Polish-born mothers have been leading in statistics giving birth to over 20,000 children each year since 2009 (Janta, 2013; Office for National Statistics, 2013; Zumpe, Dormon, & Jefferies, 2012). The phenomenon of Poles’ childbearing and parenting abroad deserves in-depth study due to its scale, dynamics and social importance in the context of the demographic crisis in Poland. Moreover, it is one of the factors which transformed the mobility of Poles enjoying their freedom of movement in the EU into a massive resettlement of families with children, and led to the rejuvenation of the Polish diaspora.

In the early years of the post-accession migration boom in the UK, the dominant perception of the stay of the migrants in the UK was one of a temporary or open-ended project. Eade, Drinkwater and Garapich (2007) divided Polish immigrants into four types: circulating “storks” (20%),1 capital-cumulating “hamsters” (16%), “stayers” aiming to settle in the UK (22%), and unpredictable “searchers” (42%). The most common type were migrants who treated their stay in the UK as an open-ended project and cared about their position and ties to both Polish and British societies. Their strategy was defined as “intentional unpredictability”, as they envisioned for themselves several future scenarios (professional development and upward social mobility in the UK, return to Poland when it offers better opportunities, further migration). Their openness and functioning above the nation-state borders made them an ideal mobile workforce: ← 1 | 2 → flexible, easily adapting and accepting the post-modern transnational labour market and its demands (Eade et al., 2007, p. 34).

Undertaken as an individual decision of seizing a new opportunity, migration cumulated into a massive movement and a shared generational experience (Galasińska & Kozłowska, 2009), “a rite of passage into adult life, a school of life” (Eade et al., 2007, p. 35). Transition into adulthood was indeed easier in the UK, where the labour and housing markets are geared towards young people leaving the parental home early. In the trajectories of the Polish youth, “dishwashing in London” during – or just after – studies became a very common stage in life, making them different from their slightly older compatriots. Yet, if migration helped to make this transition into adulthood, then why could it not help reaching the next stages – forming relationships, having children, achieving residential mobility or even becoming home owners?

In the golden era of modernity the lives of individuals were organised in a standardised time frame in which, after completing their education, people started their working lives; the transition to adulthood in other spheres of life followed in an orderly fashion (Kohli, 1986). Since the 1970s, the lives of young adults have been filled with heterogeneity and uncertainty, with people experimenting and searching for their own path rather than entering adulthood with a clear goal in mind. As a result, a great variety of life trajectories have emerged, although the choice itself was partly imposed as the multiplication of options did not necessarily mean personal freedom of choice (Brückner & Mayer, 2005; Kohli, 2007).

Are then post-accession migrations a breach in the standardised life course, or are they a way to get on the standard track for people who struggled in Poland unable to make the transition to full employment? If young migrants find jobs, start families, even buy homes within a few years of their arrival to the UK, and if slightly older migrants who were made redundant or were never economically active in their home country, thanks to migration and doing domestic work in countries such as Italy or Belgium, can go back to full time employment and have a chance to work until retirement – then, thanks to migration, their biographies (in the domains of family and work life) become standard.


XIV, 198
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
Fertility Parenting Family Polish migrants International migration Intra-EU migration
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. XIV, 197 pp., 13 fig. b/w, 8 tables

Biographical notes

Weronika Kloc-Nowak (Author)

Weronika Kloc-Nowak received a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. She works as a sociologist at the Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw, Poland, and is specialised in the internal dynamics of migrant families, intergenerational relations and gender perspective on migration.


Title: Childbearing and Parental Decisions of Intra EU Migrants