Transnational Migration to and from Southeast Asia

Title: 1158 | Transnational Migration to and from Southeast Asia
Area: Southeast Asia
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Piyada Chonlaworn, Tenri University, Japan (organizer, chair)
Ilham Barab, Immigration Agency of Pekanbaru, Indonesia (presenter)
Mika Suzuki, Kokushikan University, Japan (presenter)
Antonius Maria Indrianto, Mahidol University, Thailand (presenter, chair)
Shiho Sawai, Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan (presenter)
Reiko Ogawa, Chiba University, Japan (presenter)


Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the 21th century. With the increasing number of young population, many countries from the Philippines to Vietnam witness a large number of migrant workers working in East Asian countries, Middle East, and beyond. This panel discusses two-way transnational movements of people; from Southeast Asia to other regions and the other way round. Focusing on migrant workers from Indonesia and Philippines, five presenters from academia and state agency each tackle issues about migration from different angels; migrant workers themselves, migrant returnees, family who are left behind, and asylum seekers and refugees. This panel also demonstrates how state policy both of host and home country comes to promote, or sometimes undermine the flow of people. It aims to provide analytical insight and new perspective of how we regard migration policy, migrant workers and refugees.

Panel Abstracts:
Revisiting Indonesia's Regulatory Approach to Transiting Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Although Indonesia is not a signatory country to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, it serves as a transit country for refugees. Indonesia used to deal with a massive influx of refugees in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s when it hosted over 120,000 migrants escaping political unrest in Indochina countries. Currently, there are approximately 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia coming mainly from Afghanistan, but also from Somalia, Myanmar, and other countries. In this paper, I argue that while the most recent asylum seeker flows from the Middle East countries into Indonesia constitute only a small proportion of the refugee flows from Indochina countries, Indonesia is still unable to address the refugee and asylum-seeker issue properly. Adopting documentary analysis, regulatory approaches of Indonesia to transiting refugees and asylum seekers were examined. It was found that Indonesia’s policy direction in the refugee policy area has been reactive. It can thus be suggested that Indonesia must be proactive and take this decades-old policy problem more seriously to bear potential unintended consequences. In particular, an enactment of domestic refugee-specific legislation can improve Indonesia’s ability to address the refugee and asylum-seeker problems in its territory, otherwise Indonesia could be entirely unprepared to manage any potential new influx of refugees and asylum seekers in the future.

Filipino immigrants in Trinidad and Tobago – Migration for Rational Choice
The Philippines prides itself on being a country that supplies skilled laborers to more than 200 destinations across the globe, to work in different occupations and work settings. Up till today, an enormous amount of studies with regard to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and permanent immigrants have been published not only by the academic world, but by the governments and international organizations as well. However, most of these previous works have a high tendency to focus more on Filipinos going to or residing in the advanced countries, East Asia, and the Middle East. This study deals with the OFWs in Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation in the Caribbean, based on the field research. For Filipinos, the country has been one of the most popular destinations in the region. The influx of the OFWs accelerated after 2005, when the Trinidadian government made a decision to receive medical workers from this Asian country, in order to solve the labor shortage in the health sector. As of October 2019, it is estimated that approximately 1,000 Philippine nationals reside in the twin island nation as nurses, pharmacists, construction workers, hotel, employees and house workers. Some of them became permanent residents as a result of prolonged stay, marriage and family reunion. While the OFWs in Trinidad and Tobago are vulnerable to political and economic situations in the country, most of them tend to regard this Caribbean country as a transit before moving to a better country for work and living.

Migrant Mothers and Everyday Life of Left-Behind Husband in Indonesia
In Indonesia, female labor migrants of married women have been increasing since the early 1980s (Graham & Yeoh, 2013). Wife (and women in general) migrate to earn more money and have come to occupy the “breadwinner” role in the family, earning most of the household income. Indonesian women travel to work mostly in domestic workers and caregivers in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Based on data from the National Body for the Placement and Protection of Migrant Workers, in January – July 2017, there are 125.081 international migrants and 63% of them are women (BNP2TKI report, 2017). Traditionally in Javanese culture, income earners role in the family assigned to father while women as income earners are the subordinate position under the reproductive tasks (Geertz 1961; Anderson 1972; Ford & Parker, 2008). My study will contribute at both theoretical and practical levels looking the answer to how left-behind husband negotiate gender role and masculinities when wife migrate becoming the “breadwinner”. The existing studies of family migrant workers focus on the impact of left-behind family and studies of left-behind families also barely mention the experiences of left-behind husbands. My analysis of policies and programs of the Government of Indonesia and NGOs on family migrant workers will contribute to filling the gaps of previous studies.

The Emergence of Social Entrepreneurship Intent for MDW Activists: the Case of Indonesian Domestic Workers in Hong Kong
In the recent years, Hong Kong has become the center of migrant domestic workers’ (MDWs) social activism, through which a number of MDW groups are engaging in varieties of activities as their state of self-empowerment. Many researches has explored the impact of such activism during the participants’ sojourn in the country of destination, but few have investigated how such involvement in social activism affects the participants’ lives after returning to their country of origin. Therefore, I have carried out a research by taking Indonesian former-MDWs in Hong Kong, and found out that the former MDW activists are highly prone to engage in a kind of entrepreneurship which capitalizes their concern for a wider social and environmental issues nurtured from their involvement in social activism. By framing this type of enterprise as a state of social entrepreneurship, I portray how this kind of entrepreneurship’s first intent emerges for the entrepreneurs, and what kind of strength and limitation are found for the entrepreneurs who try to cause positive changes to their communities of origin. By so doing, I discuss what would become the issues at stake for the former-MDW return migrants and their native communities. Put it another way, this research tries to think the question of return migrants’ successful social integration and the realization of sustainable development in their communities of origin, by connecting their experience during transnational migration to an alternative career stage.

Migrant Care Workers and Skill Regimes in Japan
Japan is the fastest greying and depopulated country in the world where those who are above 65 years old share almost one-third of the total population. Immigration in Japan is still negligible, but fast-growing, and one of the sectors that are expected to grow in the future is elderly care. In the last decade, the elderly care labor market slowly started to open, and by 2019, several visa categories were created to introduce labor migrants into the care sector. The requirements for migrants to work in the care sector are very stringent compared to other destination countries as migrants are not only expected to learn the language but also "appropriate behaviors." The presentation examines the stratification of migrant care workers according to the skill regimes of the government. There are at least four channels for migrants to work in care which requires different requirements, training and citizenship status. This brings confusion for both the migrants and the employers. It address the following questions: 1) how are the skill regimes have been defined in Japan's immigration policy, 2) what are the technologies used to "train" the migrant care workers to obtain the "appropriate behaviors", and 3) how migrants are experiencing the different skill regimes in care work. Japanese language and culture play a critical role as technologies of disciplining of the migrants transforming their transnational bodies to subservient workers. Migrants, however, are well aware of the process and decide to capitalize on their experience for upward mobility

This panel is on Wednesday - Session 05 - Room 4

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