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International Labour Migration and Migration Policies in Southeast Asia

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Abstract Labour migration is the dominant form of international migration in the Southeast Asian region. It involves movement both within and outside the region with Southeast Asia having some of the world’s major origin and destination countries for labour migrants. There is a bifurcation in policies toward labour migrants between high-skilled and low-skilled workers. While there is a manifest demand for both groups, the former are welcomed and enjoy an array of freedom and rights, while the latter are reluctantly accepted under tight restrictive conditions. The failure to recognise that labour migration is a continuing structural feature of Southeast Asian economies has been a significant barrier to migration being able to deliver the maximum potential positive outcomes, not only to the migrants, but also to the economies of origin and destination countries. There is a pressing need for a more evidence-driven, rights-based approach to all labour migration and a shift from the dominance of a policing model to a management model of governance. There are a number of promising developments in the region with respect to labour migration policy but it still suffers from a lack of management capacity, poor governance, ‘rent taking’, corruption and mismanagement. There is a pressing need for the development and adoption of best practice models, especially in relation to low-skilled migration.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Adelaide


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