No. 46




Values of Young People are Reflected in their Migration Behaviour*

14 December 2022


RiTo No. 46, 2022

  • Andu Rämmer

    Andu Rämmer

    PhD, Associate Professor of Youth Studies, Division of Social Studies, University of Tartu Narva College

  • Rein Murakas

    Analyst, Institute of Cultural Research, University of Tartu

  • Terje Toomistu

    Terje Toomistu

    Research Fellow in Ethnology, Institute of Cultural Research, University of Tartu

Opportunities for people of Estonia to move internationally for work or study purposes have increased significantly over the past few decades, affecting the migration behaviour of the younger generation in particular.

It is important to pay attention to east-west migration in the context of the brain drain and youth drain, as mass emigration of educated people has negative economic consequences for the countries of origin. This article focuses on the relationship between the value orientations and migration behaviour of Estonian young people aged 20–35 who have long-term experience of living and/or studying abroad.

Values refer to desirable goals or ways of achieving them, they transcend situations, shape behaviour in different situations and are ordered according to importance. Interrelated values are known as value orientations, which can be categorised as extrinsic, intrinsic and social values. A person’s values develop through socialisation, based on the experiences acquired at a young age, and remain relatively stable throughout their lives. The values of young people are studied more often, because according to the socialisation hypothesis the dominant values in society change slowly, primarily through generational replacement.

In a survey (N=2022) conducted in the framework of the interdisciplinary study “Young Estonians Abroad” at the Institute of Cultural Research of the University of Tartu, young adults with longer experience of living abroad rated the importance of various work values in their lives. While after the transition to a market economy young Estonians attached the highest importance to the possibility of earning a good salary, and having a secure job and career opportunities were also considered more important than before, the importance of intrinsic work values has increased since then.

The results of our survey research show that the respondents who have returned to Estonia as well as the respondents who have stayed abroad both rated intrinsic and extrinsic values higher than social work values. A closer analysis of extrinsic values reveals their connection with dissatisfaction with the living and working environment in Estonia. Attaching importance to intrinsic values is associated with various development opportunities. The importance of social values is linked to social interaction and sociability.

At the same time, the results also point to a significant divergence in value orientations between those who have returned or intend to return and those who have stayed abroad and do not intend to return. Those who consider extrinsic work values important tend to prefer to stay abroad, while those who appreciate intrinsic and social work values tend to prefer to return.

* Peer-reviewed article. The research was funded by the Postimees Foundation under the Young Estonia POST23 and POST214 research grants.