Plotting Lifestyle Migration VI: Exploring Dutch migration to rural Sweden

By Marco Eimerman (Örebro University, Sweden)

Over the past ten years or so, an increasing number of Dutch have become interested in living in rural Sweden. This trend is mirrored in a number of annual Emigration Expos and information meetings, one of which is visited by approximately 12,000 visitors. At this Expo – the largest in Europe, as the organisation claims on its website – destination countries are grouped together geographically around forums or in Pavilions. One such Pavilion is the Sweden Pavilion. Here, thirty to forty Swedish municipalities and regions are gathered in order to meet and inform Dutch and other prospective migrants. Information (or place marketing) is provided by all kinds of media. The question remains, how can this trend of moving North be explained?

My PhD research focuses on the above and related questions, employing mixed methods to interrogate these. The most important components of this method are a longitudinal database, a minor survey and an interview study. While in progress of analysing data gathered during the interview study, I would like to present some results studying the database and the survey. These results are also published in Eimermann, Lundmark & Müller (2012). The purpose of the study is to explore migration from the Netherlands to rural Sweden in the early 21st century by relating the characteristics of the movers with their motivations for moving.

The research area is Bergslagen, a location where forestry, iron and steel industry prevailed until the end of the 20th century. Located rather centrally in Sweden but consisting of small industrial towns in sparsely populated areas, the population has been decreasing and employment opportunities are few.

Based on descriptive statistics available from the Bergslagen Database (BeDa), some characteristics of 696 Dutch living in the area can be identified. We divided this group into cohorts depending on the latest year of settlement in Bergslagen. Our focus lies predominantly on the latest cohort, arriving since the turn of the 21st century. This cohort is then compared to German migrants and the local population. It emerges that Dutch movers who have settled in the area since 2000 onwards are families composed of adults aged 26-45 years with children under 18 living at home. The adults have a high and (to a lesser extent) medium levels of education and relatively many of them became self-employed following migration. Finally, the families chose to settle outside towns in rural areas, thus giving their move a true urban-to-rural character.

A Swedish rural idyll in the research area. Marco Eimermann©2011

A Swedish rural idyll in the research area. Marco Eimermann©2011

A survey conducted among 100 visitors of the Sweden Pavilion during Emigration Expos of 2008 and 2011, reveals that almost half of the respondents live in strongly or heavily urbanised areas before migration. 30% of prospective movers aim at starting their own business after migration, which may indicate lifestyle-related motives (Benson & O’Reilly 2009, Hoey 2010). Furthermore, almost two thirds of the respondents mention tranquillity, space, nature and nature-related issues as motives for moving to rural Sweden. Economic motives are rarely mentioned.

One of the conclusions of the paper concerns linking social and economic characteristics to migration motivations. Households of rather highly educated adults aged 26–45 years and their children under 18 (i.e. demographic and socio-economic characteristics) have purchased properties in sparsely populated surroundings in Sweden (i.e. spatial, political and socio-cultural motives). This may be one explanation for sparsely populated areas such as Bergslagen taking part in Emigration Expos, as the number of Dutch moving to Sweden has increased from 494 in 1995 to 1377 in 2011 (Statistics Netherlands). Work in progress consists of an interview study of a number of Dutch families in one municipality in the Bergslagen area.

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