Dissertation Abstracts

Enhancing Quality of Life: The Social Support of Elderly Chinese Migrants in New Zealand

Author: Zhang, Jingjing , zjjseu@163.com
Department: Department of Sociology
University: University of Auckland, New Zealand
Supervisor: Prof. Maureen Baker
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Social support , Quality of life , Elderly Chinese migrants
Areas of Research: Migration , Family Research , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


This thesis explores the quality of life of elderly Chinese migrants living in New Zealand. Specifically, by taking into consideration types and sources of support, it investigates the relationship between social support and quality of life. The analysis is contextualized within a transnational environment to elucidate how the multi-dimensional social support from family, community/government and transnational social networks contributes to elderly migrants’ perception of quality of life.
In this study, both quality of life and social support are viewed as subjective concepts, based on individual perceptions and experiences. Theoretically, the thesis uses a social exchange perspective and the findings are derived primarily from 35 semi-structured in-depth interviews with elderly Chinese migrants who were aged 60 years or over and had lived in New Zealand for three years or more. Secondary data from statistics, government policies and previous research are also employed for the purposes of discussion and comparison.
The findings indicate that the quality of life of elderly Chinese migrants in New Zealand is shaped by the interaction of various types and sources of social support. Providing financial, practical, informational and emotional support, family support is perceived as essential to participants’ quality of life in the early stages of migration. However, while family remains the major source of emotional support, government and ethnic communities, because they engender a sense of independence from family, become over time more important in regard to financial, practical, informational support. Furthermore, maintaining transnational social networks and accessing government support from both China and New Zealand enhances these migrants’ quality of life, but the uncertainties of transnational life also impose challenges.
My research argues that enhancing the quality of life of elderly migrants is an ongoing process of optimising the multi-dimensional forms of social support and balancing the benefits and challenges of post-migration life. This study makes both empirical and theoretical contributions to the field of social support for and the quality of life of elderly migrants. Taking my participants’ perspective, I move beyond a family-centric approach, enabling participants to express their own perceptions of social support and quality of life. Employing social exchange theory enables me to identify the importance of exchange dynamics to the quality of life of elderly Chinese migrants rather than to simply discuss the degree and content of the support providing to them. As such, the findings of this study contribute to our limited knowledge of elderly Chinese migrants living in New Zealand.