Accepted Paper:

A good place to live or a good place to leave? Young people and migration decision making in rural Austria  


Bernadette Ralser

Paper short abstract:

In their migration decision making process, young people in a rural Austrian neighbourhood negotiate ambivalent push and pull factors. An important reason for their decision to 'stay local' is the discourse about the city as the direct opposite of the safe, close-knit and caring rural community.

Paper long abstract:

More than other age groups rural youths suffer from a range of 'disadvantages' of rural life: the lack of public transport which limits their mobility, the absence of institutions offering further education, low employment opportunities and the lack of leisure facilities. Sometimes young people also consider the social control aspect of close-knit communities as 'intrusive' and 'constraining'. These disadvantages are generally felt more strongly by young women: men tend to have more job opportunities locally, and the social life of clubs, leisure associations and community organizations are male dominated. Young women are more exposed to social control than young men - for example they can more easily lose their 'good reputation' through gossip if they do not conform with social norms.

My ethnographic case study about migration decision making processes among young people of the rural Upper Austrian Community Schönau nevertheless shows that living in the countryside also offers social advantages: Because of their integration in large families, friendship- and community-networks the young interviewees articulate a strong attachment to their home places. They identify with local cultural values, tend to idealize 'the country' and share negative images of 'the city' and its inhabitants.

The country is collectively considered as the only appropriate place for raising children, yet as disadvantageous for the ambitious youths. This leads especially young, well-educated women to express conflicts, combining their traditional image of the family with their career aspirations. Thus, gender and social integration are key factors affecting young people's feelings about rurality with implications for out-migration. Moreover, young people are not as mobile and flexible as the globalized labour market increasingly expects them to be, and categories such as community, solidarity and closeness to nature remain valuable for the youths in these areas.

Panel W079
Globalising neighbourhoods or tradition-based parallel societies? Studying migration and cultural diversity in rural areas