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Declining fertility and rising life expectancy combined with migration are changing the demographic landscape of the MENA. Earlier high fertility will ensure a growing population in the next 20-30 years. Family structure is also changing: families are becoming smaller and increasingly nuclear, rather than extended. The region has to manage a young age structure and a gradual ageing of the population but with a potential weakening of the traditional inter-generational support based on family, it also faces a widely varying and heterogeneous resource base and socio-economic structure across the different countries. To maintain and improve inter-generational support within family and society in the MENA countries with large populations (such as Iran and Egypt) the most important challenges are poverty and vulnerability, unemployment, and development of long-term plans for an ageing population. These are inter-connected objectives since reducing poverty and increasing current employment could provide individuals and families with some resources to save and accumulate for old age. States in the region should put redistributive social policies in the areas of health, education and housing at the heart of a strategy of supporting family budgets and resources to assist them in their inter-generational care, but should also set up care and pension schemes to provide societal intergenerational support.
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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