The Worrying Future for Grandparents when Migration Robs a Country of its Children
Asghar Zaidi, 11 Oct 17

huseyin ozdemir1/Shutterstock

One of the central arguments in support of pro-immigration policies in Europe is that developed nations in the West need young workers to help pay for the pensions and healthcare of ageing populations. We can argue over the merits of that into the night, but what is often forgotten is the fate of the older people in the countries suffering large net emigration of the young and educated to the West.

Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) have been particularly affected, and in several ways.

Young relatives who might have cared for the elderly move away to find work; and they pay little or nothing into a formal social care system that provided only meagre support in the first place. Young people are also potential parents, so their leaving (and staying) reduces the size of new generations.

And there’s more. Many grandparents (who are often in need of care themselves) can end up caring for their grandchildren whose parents are working abroad. In the case of Moldova, Unicef data from 2000 indicate that some 75,000 children had at least one parent abroad, and 35,000 lived with neither parent. These figures have been rising since.

Net losses. sevenMaps7


The EECA region includes countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine. Their situation was highlighted in a recent report I worked on for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as part of the 15-year review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

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