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In-migration and economic activity in rural areas of Wales

Groves-Phillips, Sarah-Jayne


Sarah-Jayne Groves-Phillips


Rural areas are changing – a population turnaround was first identified in the 1970’s (Beale 1975). Since that time more and more research has uncovered the numbers and types of people moving into rural areas (Boyle 1995, Boyle and Halfacree 1998, Bolton and Chalkley 1998) and the impact of this migration (Bell 1994 Cloke and Goodwin 1992). Keeble and Tyler (1995) began to address the economic capacity of in-migrants highlighting that many rural businesses are owned by in-migrants. Stockdale, Short and Findlay (1999) identified that on average for each self-employed in-migrant 2.4 jobs are created. In recent years the policy focus on rural areas has centred on endogenous development, Stockdale (2006) argues in-migrants are essential for this approach to be successful.
This research has combined literature from migration studies, with entrepreneurship literature, to examine the economic activity choices of in-migrants; with a particular focus on self-employment. Migration studies focus on where people choose to migrate to and the impact they then have on the area. Entrepreneurship literature focuses on the types of people who chose to become self-employed and the impact of various factors on their decision making. This research has utilised concepts from both literature sources to examine lifetime migrant’s economic activity in rural areas (defined under the ONS rural – urban classification).
Powys and Gwynedd are two local authority areas in rural Wales that have interesting economic and migration patterns. They were selected as study areas as they represent areas of varying degrees of inward migration, self-employment, accessibility to major transport networks and levels of Welsh speaking. This research charts the economic activity of households across these local authorities in order to understand what impact individual, household and area level influences have on in-migrants economic activity. A postal survey of 597 households in the case study areas was used to explore the research questions; ‘what are the differences in the current economic activity of migrants and non-migrants in rural labour markets in Wales; and why do these differences exist?’
The conclusions of this research make three key contributions to knowledge:
1. In-migrants and non-migrants in the case study areas selected have broadly similar levels of economic activity rates. There are no statistically significant differences in economic activity choices between the two groups.
2. Some in-migrants (at similar levels to non-migrants) become self-employed and start a business. These businesses are often different to that of non-migrants, they tend to be largely based from home and prefer to employ family members.

3. Many in-migrants do not move into rural areas with the intention of becoming self-employed this is mobilised often up to a decade after the move.

The findings of this research play a key role in understanding why in-migrants make the economic activity choices they do in rural areas. – Through a combination of push and pull factors that centre on the individual (age, nationality, employment history), the household (household structure, tenure) and the area (labour market, levels of Welsh speaking) in-migrants make economic activity choices that for some, result in self-employment.
The businesses created by in-migrants differ slightly from that of non-migrant owned businesses. In-migrant owned businesses are most likely to be based from or closer to home than non-migrants. They often employ family member and tend to be younger than non-migrant owned businesses. They do not appear more likely to create jobs than non-migrant owned businesses. This is an important finding given the importance of in-migrant owned rural businesses in much recent rural debate (Bosworth 2008, Bosworth 2010, Stockdale 2006).


Groves-Phillips, S. In-migration and economic activity in rural areas of Wales. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords in-migration, rural, in-migrants, economic activity, Wales, self-employment, non-migrants


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