July Bulletin: Young Indonesian women reframe ‘development’, governing migration in Asia, and more

Publications, events, and news from July about low-waged labour migration in Asia. Like what you read? Subscribe here.

Responsible adults-in-the-making

In Southeast Asia, labour migration is seen as necessary not just to meet short-term needs but to secure a family’s future through investing in children’s education. However, the impact of parental migration on children’s (educational) aspirations has not received much attention. How are young Indonesian women’s aspirations shaped by the lack of sufficient resources and the desire to become ‘dutiful daughters’? This paper draws from 29 interviews to show how young women are challenging linear education-then-work ‘developmental’ transitions.

Download article for free (until 5th Oct)

Photo credit: Sarah Starkweather

Migration governance in Asia

In Asia, a large part of temporary low-skilled migration is brokered by private recruitment agencies. We argue that the migration industry must be firmly brought into global migration governance analysis. Based on interviews with agents, we argue that destination states in Asia devolve responsibility for workers to the migration industry to order migration flows and circumvent formal cooperation with origin countries. Fully comprehending migration governance in Asia requires grappling with the co-constitutive governance of the state and migration industry and its interdependent dynamics.

Download article here or email us at hello@migratingoutofpovertysg.org for a copy.

The news, condensed

‘Militant maids’

Since 2015, the Singapore government has repatriated nine domestic workers said to be “radicalised“. The compulsory orientation programme for first-time domestic workers now includes a module on terrorism and radicalisation.

In Hong Kong, a ”radical fringe” of 45 Indonesian workers is identified. A study shows that migrant women’s alienation, isolation, and dislocation, or a desire for emancipation, often inspires religious transformation.

Migrant domestic work, justice, and policy change 

Calls for paid home leave for domestic workers are heard in Singapore, and resisted. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower holds agencies accountable for “underaged maids“.

In Hong Kong, a bill to raise the penalty for overcharging migrant domestic workers is backed by the Legislative Council. Hong Kong’s new labour minister signals a focus on domestic workers. Indonesia calls for Taiwanese employers to bear their migrant domestic workers’ recruitment costs.

A new domestic worker law in the UAE is on the cusp of coming into effect, entitling workers to a weekly rest day, annual leave, and the right to keep passports. Despite the ban on domestic workers to the UAE, some women seek employers through the ‘black market‘. An Indonesian domestic worker in Saudi Arabia worked for 22 years without pay–and has just finally secured her salary. The number of ‘runaway maids’ in Dubai increases by 50 per cent during Ramadan.

Alternative migrations

Cross-border marriages are becoming increasingly common as marriage markets globalise. A Filipino domestic worker seeks asylum in Hong Kong in order to bring up her son there. Skills training organisation FAST states that migrant women should not be denied their freedom to travel.

Crime and violence

The Indonesian domestic worker involved in the Bedok double murder is caught. An Indonesian worker is jailed for hitting an elderly woman in her care. A commentary links crimes and abuses perpetuated by migrant domestic workers to poor mental health.

Migrant fishermen and forced labour

Two years on, the fishermen freed from the “floating prisons” of Indonesia struggle to start over. A shortage of Thai fishermen has led to the sourcing of cheap migrant labour from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Myanmar workers are ‘rescued’ from a Malaysian fishing boat.

Crackdown on irregular migrants

In Malaysia, applications for valid work permits swamp the immigration department as undocumented workers seek to regularise their status before being deported. Malaysian employers leave migrants stranded by refusing to regularise their status. Some migrants flee to avoid deportation. Indonesia asks the Malaysian government to extend the rehiring programme, but is denied. The Malaysian authorities deny that they are “victimising the vulnerable”.

On the Thai-Myanmar border, tens of thousands of migrants are forced to return home, causing a wave of migrant-staffed shops in Thailand to close. The Thai crackdown on Myanmar migrants has had harrowing consequences, especially on LGBTQ migrants.

A woman in an immigration ‘raid’ in Taiwan dies while trying to escape.

In Singapore, a labour syndicate bringing in migrant workers using ‘shell companies’ is busted.

Caring for carers

A Duke-NUS study shows that caregivers need emotional support to alleviate depressive symptoms, especially if they are caring for aged parents, but the reports are not specific about impacts on domestic workers, who carry out a bulk of caregiving work in Singapore’s homes.

Precarious construction work

A construction company is fined after a concrete slab kills a worker. Another company is fined for inadequate safety measures after a platform gives way, resulting in a death. The collapse of an uncompleted viaduct kills one man and leaves ten injured. A steel engineering company in Singapore fined $280,000 after a worker was crushed to death by a gate.

In Saudi Arabia, 11 migrant workers were killed and six injured when a fire ripped through their windowless house.

Bangladeshi cleaner Moktar responds to being the subject of a meme, and activists argue that his situation istypical of exploitative working conditions.

Female construction workers are in demand in Cambodia, but face sexual harassment and lower pay.

Home sweet home?

An illegal four-bedroom dormitory is found to house 44 men in shocking condition. In June, the Ministry of Manpower issued 322 notices to firms for flouting workplace safety regulations.

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