The Social Impacts of seasonal migration on left-behind children: An exploratory study from Lifuka, Tonga
Moala-Tupou, L. (2016). The Social Impacts of seasonal migration on left-behind children: An exploratory study from Lifuka, Tonga (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10614
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10614
There is a dearth of knowledge about the social impacts of seasonal migration on children left behind in Tonga and Pacific countries more generally. The economic benefits of remittances on families have been studied quite extensively but the social costs and benefits have not been the subject of much inquiry. This exploratory study in a Tongan village setting seeks to better understand children who are left behind and who are being affected by lengthy absences of older family members when they are employed as seasonal workers in the horticulture and viticulture industries of New Zealand and Australia. Three main questions are addressed. Firstly, how do community leaders, teachers, parents and the children themselves perceive the impacts on the children left behind by older family members when they are working overseas? Social impacts on children are examined with reference to health, education, social and religious participation. Secondly, how do the social impacts vary by gender and age of the children? Finally, what, if any, coping strategies are used or are being planned to mitigate the social impacts of seasonal migration overseas on teenage children? The data that was collected to address these questions came from three major sources: i) informal talanoa, ii) semi-structured interviews iii) and focus group discussions held in Lifuka, Ha’apai, Tonga. This study revealed that children left behind in Tonga experience both positive and negative impacts on their education, health, social and religious participation when their mother/father or older siblings are working overseas. Seasonal workers’ earnings raise household incomes and assist with paying children’s school fees and other financial needs at school, improving access to health and church services through the purchasing of cars for transportation, and providing new clothes for children especially for special occasions. Children affected by migration faced several challenges including suffering from loneliness, fear and sadness as a result of the absence of parents and sometimes experienced abuse in the communities. There can also be problems with diet, school performance, and permission to participate in social activities, especially young girls going out at night. Girls and boys face different challenges as a result of the absence of parents and older siblings, as do younger children. The main coping strategy is accessing support from teachers and other community leaders, but there needs to be more research on both impacts and strategies before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
University of Waikato
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