Grandmothers migrating, working and caring: Latvian women between survival and self-realisation

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Abstract

This paper describes the circumstances surrounding the migration of older Latvian women and their multi-dimensional lives as economic migrants and as distant carers and supporters of diverse family members who remain in Latvia. In post-Soviet Latvia, especially since the 2008 financial crisis and the austerity measures which took away hope for a decent old-age pension, older women migrate abroad in order to salvage their economic wellbeing and support their multi-generation families, which can run to four generations – their children and grandchildren plus, often, their elderly parents. Migration enables these women to maintain multidirectional flows of care and also to achieve economic and psychosocial independence. Therefore, care practices that reach four generations put the figure of the grandmother at the core of transnational care relations. Research evidence for this paper comprises 50 in-depth interviews with older Latvian migrant women aged from their mid-40s to their late 60s in the UK and elsewhere. The paper demonstrates the complexity and richness of these women’s working lives, built around enhanced economic wellbeing, multiple and transnational caring responsibilities, and a new sense of self-worth and empowerment.

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