Risks and rewards: Outcomes of labour migration in South-East Asia

This report assesses changes in the lives of migrant workers from before to after their migration and provides recommendations for improving outcomes within the region.

Labour migration has never featured more prominently within South-East Asia than it does today. However, the realities experienced by migrant workers are often hidden from view due to the temporary and irregular nature of much of the migration occurring within the region. As a result, there remains a dearth of reliable data that can be utilized for the development of evidence-based policy and programming.

To inform their interventions, the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration collaborated on a large-scale regional survey of over 1,800 migrant workers. The findings challenge some of the commonly held assumptions about the end result of labour migration in South-East Asia and how best to ensure a safe and rewarding experience for migrant workers. Positive outcomes can be achieved if migrant workers are able to avoid burdensome debts, benefit from labour rights protection, enhance their job skills and find gainful employment upon return. Lack of assurance of obtaining these conditions contributes to a situation where labour migration is often a considerable gamble for migrant workers and their family members.

The study was supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Global Affairs Canada and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation through the ILO TRIANGLE in ASEAN and the IOM Promise programmes.