Identity and Global Mobility

Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)


This chapter examines how identity is related to the mobility of professionals who initiate expatriation. In this context a “professional” has a multifaceted identity in which career (a personal identity), family (a role identity) and cultural selves (a collective identity) are combined. These components vary in the degree to which they affect the motivation to expatriate or repatriate.

Having a career orientation as a salient component of identity is central to whether a professional initiates expatriation. Career and economic motivations are crucial. However, a career orientation is not why professionals repatriate.

An identity in which family roles are salient is associated with a professional – especially a woman – who chooses to expatriate to be with a partner and family. However, family and lifestyle motivations are central to repatriation. Nevertheless, professionals, especially women, follow the location of the primary family when making their decision. When an expatriate is embedded in the host community (e.g., when their partner is foreign born), they are more likely to remain abroad, especially if they are a woman. A woman’s family identity influences her decision to expatriate or repatriate to meet the needs of her partner and family. By contrast, a man’s identity, whereby he meets his career and financial needs and those of family provider, has a strong influence on his decisions.

Identification with the home country is a strong and enduring feature of an expatriate’s identity. Professionals prefer to expatriate to countries culturally similar to their own. Those who strongly identify with their national culture are more likely to repatriate.

The recommendations for a mobility strategy that takes these various motivations into account suggest that home-country governments need to provide incentives and initiatives if they are to gain professionals’ permanent, or temporary, return; to gain professionals’ remittances for the benefit of the family; and to capitalize on the diaspora to be able to use professionals’ identification with their home country to assist its welfare.


Self-initiated expatriate Repatriation Mobility Identity Gender 



Multinational Companies


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social and Behavioural SciencesThe Flinders University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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