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Migration, social structure and old-age support networks: a comparison of three Indonesian communities


Contemporary trends in population ageing and urbanisation in the developing world imply that the extensive out-migration of young people from rural areas coincides with, and is likely to exacerbate, a rise in the older share of the rural population. This paper examines the impact of migration on vulnerability at older ages by drawing on the results of anthropological and demographic field studies in three Indonesian communities. The methodology for identifying vulnerable older people has a progressively sharper focus, beginning first with important differences between the communities, then examining variations by socio-economic strata, and finally the variability of older people's family networks. Comparative analysis indicates considerable heterogeneity in past and present migration patterns, both within and between villages. The migrants' contributions are a normal and important component of older people's support, often in combination with those of local family members. Higher status families are commonly able to reinforce their position by making better use of migration opportunities than the less advantaged. Although family networks in the poorer strata may effect some redistribution of the children's incomes, their social networks are smaller and insufficient to overcome their marked disadvantages. Vulnerability thus arises where several factors, including migration histories, result in unusually small networks, and when the migrations are within rural areas.

Corresponding author
Oxford Institute of Ageing, Manor Road Building, Oxford OX1 3UQ, UK. E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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