Labour Migration in Southeast Asia: The Political Economy of Poor and Uneven Governance

Kelly Gerard, Charan Bal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter presents a political economy of labour migration in Southeast Asia by examining the specific sectoral interests that underpin governance, and associated tensions and conflicts. Despite its importance to national development and individual livelihoods in Southeast Asia, labour migration has been poorly and unevenly governed. A two-tiered, or “bifurcated”, system allows receiving states to cherry-pick professionals from the global workforce, while leaving low-wage migrants vulnerable to precarity, exploitation, abuse, and debt bondage. This reflects the balance of social forces within respective societies, with the
strong influence of private sector interests over public policy working to suppress, co-opt or contain the conflicts driven by migrant workers and civil society organisations. Notably, the governance of low-wage migration in the region emphasises the management of movements and the deployment of workers, rather than the promotion of their rights and welfare. Highwage migration regimes, on the other hand, have been designed in support of specific state projects and agendas, whether to raise state capital or protect particular professions, generating a highly uneven process of regional “liberalisation” for the ASEAN Economic Community.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Political Economy of Southeast Asia
Subtitle of host publicationPolitics and Uneven Development under Hyperglobalisation
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-28255-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-28254-7
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in the Political Economy of Public Policy
ISSN (Print)2524-7441
ISSN (Electronic)2524-745X


Dive into the research topics of 'Labour Migration in Southeast Asia: The Political Economy of Poor and Uneven Governance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this