So long, farewell…

by Kellynn Wee

Reflections on the partnership between the Asia Research Institute and the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium.

Ristanti locked in embrace with Charlie before she returns home. Rista’s story is featured in “Ceria“.

Seven years, several projects, stacks of survey forms and a warm baton-pass from colleague to colleague later, our work with the Consortium has finally come to an end.

The Asian Migration Cluster joined the Migrating out of Poverty International Research Programme Consortium—which we, Singapore-style, affectionately christened amongst ourselves as “MOOP”—in 2010. The Consortium aims to provide research evidence which will improve policies that affect the lives and well-being of poor migrants, their communities and countries.

In mid-2017, we bade farewell to our five core partners—the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) in Bangladesh, Centre for Migration Studies (CMS) in Ghana, African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) in South Africa; and the African Migration and Development Policy Centre (AMADPOC) in Kenya—as well as the Consortium Secretariat, which is located in the University of Sussex.

Conference participants at the Gendered Dimensions of Migration workshop, held in 2015 with our partners from all around the world.

Since its inception, the Consortium’s focus has been dual: the first is to produce research that centers migrants who experience precarious circumstances, and the second is to translate our research into policy-relevant interventions and findings.

We began our inception phase in 2011 with a regional research meeting, bringing together Southeast Asia-based NGOs and migration scholars to discuss current migration trends, research gaps, and how to interest policymakers in our work. A global meeting with our partners in the UK then followed.

In 2012 and 2013, we began our research in earnest. The first regional project, titled Financing Migration, Generating Remittances, and the Building of Livelihood Strategies focused on the perspectives of Indonesian domestic workers who migrate as a livelihood strategy for poverty alleviation. The second regional project, Migration and Precarious Work: Negotiating Debt, Employment and Livelihood Strategies amongst Bangladeshi Migrant Men Working in Singapore’s Construction Industry, aimed to understand the financial and social costs of migration and the issues of precarity that contribute to job insecurity for Bangladeshi construction workers.

We also began work on major comparative research projects conducted together with our Consortium partners. The first, titled Global Quantitative Project, drew upon surveys with 1,200 households in Ponorogo, Indonesia to understand the relationship between migration and poverty. The second, titled Global Qualitative Project, consisted of 50 follow-up interviews with current and returned migrants from Ponorogo, and focused on occupations where the socially excluded and poor are over-represented. The field research and analysis of data generated from these projects occupied us throughout 2014.

We are particularly grateful to our partners and friends in Indonesia for their generosity throughout these many years of fieldwork.

In 2015, we geared up on three new projects that would take us through 2016 and 2017. Intrahousehold Dynamics: Investing in the Family’s Future—Gendered Practices of Remittance Use and the Shaping of Youth Aspirations investigated the influence of gender on remittance usage, the impact of migration on long-term investments, and the ways in which migration has affected the life choices of young people living in migrant communities. The Dynamics of Policy Formulation and Implementation: A Case-study of Singapore’s Mandatory Weekly Day-Off Policy for Migrant Domestic Workers analysed the causal mechanisms that led to the formulation and institution of the January 2013 day-off policy for migrant domestic workers in Singapore. Finally, The Migration Industry in Asia: A Case Study on Recruitment and Placement Agencies for Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore aimed to understand private brokerage as an under-studied aspect of the migration trajectory of domestic workers from Indonesia to Singapore.

We have published extensively from these projects, which have yielded multiple working papers, reports, policy briefs, conference papers and peer-reviewed journal articles. A full list of our publications can be found here.

A film poster for “Gone Home“, one of the three short films that we produced for this project.

Concurrently, we have worked hard to make our research findings accessible and relevant to the general public, policymakers, students, and civil society. Aside from publishing policy briefs, we conducted closed-door meetings with the government, developed strong relationships with local migrant worker NGOs, and gave public seminars and student presentations that, in the course of seven years, numbered over a hundred. We produced three short films about women’s, men’s and children’s experiences of migration—“Ceria”, “Gone Home”, and “Small Town, Big Dreams” respectively—and a multimedia project on “maid agents” in Singapore, titled “The Cost of Care”, all of which you can find here. We hosted four major public symposiums under the auspices of the ARI Asia Trends lectures (with much help and support from our excellent ARI events and admin team!). We also saw our research cited in two articles published in the Straits Times, and started our own series of social media channels on Twitter, Facebook, and Mailchimp.

While our partnership with the Consortium has formally reached an end, the “MOOP” research team at ARI’s Migration Cluster continues to work on this wealth of data, keeping in mind the original goals of the Consortium, which is to make the life and labour of migrant workers in Southeast Asia legible so that we, in turn, may find ways to support them.

Please contact Ms. Kellynn Wee at kellynn.wee@nus.edu.sg if you’d like any more information.

Migrating out of Poverty Research Team: Past and Present

Prof Brenda Yeoh (Principal Investigator)
Dr Silvia Mila Arlini
Dr Dhiman Das
Dr Theodora Lam
Dr Maria Platt
Ms Kristel Anne Acedera
Ms Grace Baey
Ms Miriam Ee
Ms Charmian Goh Jia Min
Ms Wajihah Hamid
Ms Khoo Choon Yen
Ms Koh Chiu Yee
Ms Tam Nguyen
Ms Kellynn Wee


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