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Journal article

Rights of Foreign Workers and the Politics of Migration in South-East and East Asia




Nicola Piper


The issue of cross-border migration in Southeast & East Asia is linked to the integration of regional, if not global, labor markets. The types of labor that are currently in demand have changed substantially since the 1990s in terms of (1) overall magnitude, (2) gender composition, & (3) increased diversification. This paper, however, focuses upon those workers classified as unskilled as they constitute numerically the largest & most vulnerable group. The challenges to provide adequate protection from, & prevention of, exploitative & abusive practices that seriously minimize the socioeconomic benefits for these workers are linked to migration policies & the issue of rights in the origin & destination countries. This paper's objective is to provide a broad outline of the emerging trends & issues revolving around contemporary cross-border labor migration & the politics of migrants' rights in Southeast & East Asia, illustrated by the difficulties experienced with the ratification of the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of All Migrants & their Families (ICMR). The data this paper is based upon were collected for a report commissioned by the UN Educational, Scientific, & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with fieldwork carried out in seven countries located in the Asia Pacific region. It is argued that ratification of the ICMR is obstructed by politics & by a lack of political will. A rights-based approach to the protection of migrant labor is thus related to a number of macro & micro level issues, revolving around development & practices of "good governance" in addition to interstate relations. This means that the promotion of migrants' rights requires a holistic approach addressing national & transnational issues in an era of increasing mobility across borders. 1 Appendix, 46 References. Adapted from the source document.

Journal title

International Migration





Page numbers



Economic sectors

General relevance - all sectors

Content types

Policy analysis

Geographical focuses

Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Regional relevance

Spheres of activity

Law and Political science