The impact of international migration on black South African families

Mabandla, Nthopele Tselane
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International migration is a global phenomenon. However, international migration out of South Africa appears to impact the various races differently. Thus this study aims to explore the experiences of Black South African families who have been impacted by international migration. Highlighted in the study will be the experiences of the family members remaining behind in addition to those of the emigrants abroad. Pertaining to Black migration, migration research in South Africa has primarily focused on racist internal labour migration, the dislocation of exilic migration and the “brain drain” phenomenon of Black medical professionals. Seemingly relatively little research exists on the impact of international migration on the Black family system. A snowball sampling strategy was utilised and six Gauteng-based families were identified through referrals. One-hour semi-structured interviews were scheduled with available family members remaining behind. For the emigrants abroad, thirty minute telephonic interviews were conducted. The interviews for both the emigrants and the remaining behind family members focused on the effects of being separated from their family members in addition to the coping strategies they employed to mitigate against the loss and separation. Through thematic analysis, the findings of this study provided a nuanced understanding of the significance of close relational ties in the Black South African family system, which is essentially collectivist. Familial separation occasioned by international migration brought about a feeling of being off-balance for the remaining family members. Moreover, pull factors for international migration were primarily self-actualisation and increasing capital in order to return and continue living in South Africa. The maintenance of a Black South African identity while abroad brought about issues of belonging and integration. Thus the temporality of international migration is underpinned by the notion of home, strong ties to family remaining in the country of origin and a strong Black South African identity.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Community-based Counselling Psychology, March 2019
Mabandla, Nthopele Tselane. (2019). The impact of international migration on black South African families. University of the Witwatersrand,