Contested Borders, Contested Boundaries

The Politics of Labour Migration in Southeast Asia

Authored by: Michele Ford

Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415494274
eBook ISBN: 9780203155011
Adobe ISBN: 9781136579196


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Temporary labour migration is a contemporary global phenomenon driven by unequal economic relations within and between states, but also by conflict, repression and even natural disasters. Its strong historical precedents notwithstanding, international labour migration has been transformed in recent decades by the ease of transportation, which has enabled workers to travel between home and host country (and to second and third host countries) on short-term contracts. While clearly of benefit to capital both as a cheap form of waged labour and through the role that foreign domestic workers play in the reproduction of the local labour force, the presence of large numbers of temporary migrants presents a dilemma to host-country governments, which struggle to balance the demands of economic growth and the social implications of the decision to import ‘second-class’ workers. In an attempt to manage these risks, they seek to control flows of migrant workers – in many cases, strongly supported by local trade unions concerned with the welfare of their (local) members.

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