G4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Migrants as change agents : social remittances regarding the country of settlement and its welfare system shared by migrants in a Finnish-Russian transnational context (2022)
Siirtolaiset muutosagentteina : hyvinvointivaltiota koskevat sosiaaliset siirtolähetykset suomalais-venäläisessä viitekehyksessä

Bontenbal, I. (2022). Migrants as change agents : social remittances regarding the country of settlement and its welfare system shared by migrants in a Finnish-Russian transnational context [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Jyväskylä. JYU dissertations, 564. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-9209-5

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsBontenbal, Ilona


Journal or seriesJYU dissertations


Publication year2022

Number in series564

Number of pages in the book1 verkkoaineisto (263 sivua)

PublisherUniversity of Jyväskylä

Publication countryFinland

Publication languageEnglish

Persistent website addresshttp://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-9209-5

Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel


In this research, the aim is to understand migrants´ attempts to influence the information, views, and attitudes that their non-migrant acquaintances have regarding living abroad, Finland/Russia, and differences in welfare systems, by sharing with them information and values that they have encountered during their migration. The research is grounded in literature on transnationalism and the migration and development nexus, i.e., how migrants can keep influencing their society of origin while living in a different country. The topic of focus is welfare, and more specifically, what ideas and information regarding welfare systems and services migrants transmit. The chosen context is the transnational space between Finland and Russia. These neighbouring countries represent two contexts in which the principles behind welfare services and their practical implementation are structured very differently. The transmitting of ideas, values and knowledge is examined from the perspective of the migrant, through the concept of social remittances. The analysis is based on 35 interviews with migrants from Russia living in Finland. The research finds that migrants can act as change agents and have an important role in influencing their acquaintances´ views and attitudes towards migrating, living in Finland/the “west”, or Russia/the “east”, and how the welfare services are structured and offered in these countries. In the context of Russia, in which the freedom of the media is significantly obstructed, such information can have an important role in providing non-migrants information that they would otherwise not get. Regarding welfare services, migrants are found to remit information about both positive and negative experiences. The welfare services of Russia are significantly less discussed with acquaintances in Finland than the services of Finland with acquaintances in Russia, indicating that although social remittances can be multidirectional, they are not always symmetrical. The research finds that changing how people think is not easy and that there are various factors that are perceived to hinder this, such as strong ideas presented by the media, a east vs. west juxta positioning, and a disapproval of emigration among acquaintances. Sharing ideas and information that are not welcomed, appreciated, or believed can negatively affect the relationship of migrants and their non-migrant acquaintances. Overall, implementing change and changing attitudes, through social remittances, beyond the own personal circle of migrants is found difficult and migrants consider their role in bringing about change in society, regarding welfare services, limited, especially since they are detached from policy makers in Russia.

KeywordsRussiansmigrantsimmigrantsattitudescommunication (information exchange)networking (making contacts)adaptation (change)cultural differencestransnationalismdoctoral dissertations

Free keywordssocial remittances; transnationalism; transnational relations; migrant networks; welfare; migration; migrant networks; migration-related change; development; sharing information; intercultural communication

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2022

Last updated on 2024-15-06 at 23:26