Caught between mobility aspirations and migration pathways: Europeans in Singapore and Tokyo

Helena Hof


This book project, based on Helena’s PhD dissertation, features young Europeans who migrated to Asia’s booming business centres Singapore and Tokyo in the 2010s. These early-career migrants came of age in the enlarging European Union and have benefited from international exposure through the EU’s higher educational mobility regimes like Erasmus, yet they anticipate obstacles for career advancement and middle class distinction in the competitive post-Lehman EU labour market. The book argues that these EU citizens have internalized mobility as something normal if not attractive. They pursue their early career and middle-class lifestyles in Asian metropolises as an alternative to the EU and are socialized into Asian work places and employment conditions. The acceptance of a life on temporary visa, contracted jobs in globalized flexible labour markets and a notion of otherness in their host societies are worth in exchange for a middle-class lifestyle and distinction they perceive unattainable or undesirable in the contemporary EU. These findings demonstrate the significance social and economic contextual developments and the life course have for migration trajectories and outcomes. The crucial time of school-to-labour market transition and the previously accumulated mobility experiences in the 2000s enlarging EU render employment in Asia the more attractive option. The longitudinal study design of the book demonstrates that this decision has long-term consequences given the path dependency of first or early career abroad and the concomitant life course events of young adulthood – such as finding a romantic partner or establishing social and professional networks – unfolding in Asia.

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