AbstractsGeography &GIS

Housing talent: Residential satisfaction among skilled migrants in the Helsinki metropolitan area

by Elina Eskelä

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of Geosciences and Geography, Division of Urban Geography and Regional Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: kaupunkimaantiede
Record ID: 1142198
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/154683


Cities are striving to attract and retain talented workers in order to increase their competitiveness in the new economy, which is highly dependent on innovation and knowledge. Residential satisfaction has been identified as a key determinant of whether a person stays or moves to another location. However, given the tendency to focus on the housing of immigrant groups with a lower socio-economic status, the factors that affect the residential satisfaction of skilled migrants remain understudied. This article-based dissertation in the field of urban geography examines the determinants of residential satisfaction among skilled migrants living in the Helsinki metropolitan area (HMA), Finland. The research setting is intended to maximise the cultural and socio-economic as well as locational diversity within the limits of recognised skilled migrant groups. The analysis focuses on how the interplay between individuals norms and the situational conditions is manifested when immigrants assess a single housing market, the HMA. The study is qualitative in nature and draws on 70 semi-structured interviews with skilled migrants and with experts on migration and housing in the city region. Despite the cultural, socioeconomic and locational heterogeneity of the interviewees, their experiences of housing in the HMA were notably similar: the uppermost assessment was that it is expensive, cramped and uniform. On the other hand, they appreciated the overall safety and functionality of the city region, as well as the natural environment: the predominant influence, for them, is the family life cycle rather than the urban amenities that are often assumed to be highly important for the creative class . The results also show that homeownership is not a simple indicator of the intention to stay in or leave the region, which contradicts earlier findings on ethnic-minority housing. The study underlines the importance of the social environment in creating residential satisfaction among skilled migrants. Whereas earlier studies revealed the essential nature of social networks and personal trajectories in the location decisions of skilled workers, the results of this study indicate that the supply of local, neighbourhood-based social ties is particularly limited in the case of the HMA, and that this has a negative impact on the residential satisfaction of skilled migrants. Furthermore, the structural element of housing seemed to have an effect on local social ties: among international students the extent of such ties varied according to the housing form. Although many skilled migrants are in a good socio-economic position, they are not immune to problems related to finding suitable housing. Housing availability, quality and affordability are therefore significant factors in enhancing residential satisfaction among such groups. Furthermore, as local social ties serve a mediating role with regard to the residential area as well as to society, the formation of such ties would promote the integration of migrants. These aspects of housing…