Illustrative photo for the accompanying article

Return migration tends to happen in a slower, more orderly style, often seeing high-achieving people returning during the twilight of their careers. What happens when a huge burst of people in the prime of their working lives return? It’s a rare phenomenon, and therefore little studied – but research conducted by Harvard’s Centre for International Development suggests a very different outcome.

It looked at the fate of Albania in the aftermath of Greece’s post-GFC recession. Historically many Albanians had moved to Greece to work, sending remittances home, which provided a significant source of GDP. When Greece’s economy collapsed in the early 2010s, unemployment among Albanian immigrants spiked to over 40%. Some 600,000 returned home. Yet instead of this flood of labour depressing wages, the study found “wages of the low-skilled Albanians who never migrated (non-migrants) increased”.

This is because the returning Albanians had better skills, stronger overseas networks and were significantly more entrepreneurial – three times as likely to employ others as those who had never left. The study’s authors noted that “return migrants bring technologically advanced ideas and create export opportunities which bring about higher incomes”.


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