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The ASEAN Economic Community and National Sovereignty

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Towards a Securitisation of Labour Migration? A Press Analysis of Four Southeast Asian Countries

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The article examines whether, and how far, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has triggered a discourse on labour migration in ASEAN member countries which exhibits a tendency towards securitising the free flow of labour. It begins with the observation that fears linger in ASEAN’s member countries that market liberalisation may not only lead to a flooding with imported goods, but also intensify intra-regional labour migration. The ushering in of the AEC can thus be considered a critical juncture facilitating ideational changes and so exacerbating labour migration politicisation. Resting on the Copenhagen School’s securitisation theory and a discourse analysis of 72 newspaper articles, and based on a taxonomy of politicisation, the article’s major findings are that the level of politicisation is limited in the four countries under investigation. Surprisingly, it is higher in Indonesia than in Singapore and Malaysia where securitisation effects would have been expected. Explanations suggest that issues such as terrorism and maritime border concerns are currently more conducive for securitisation. In Indonesia and Singapore, the level of politicising post-AEC labour migration is higher than in Malaysia and the Philippines due to deeply inculcated vulnerability and survival discourses, which let elites respond seismically to global and regional developments.

Affiliations: 1: University of Freiburg


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