Reforming “Regular” Employment in Japan: A Target of Abenomics’ “Third Arrow”

Memo #273

By Scott North – north [at]

“Regular” employment in Japan connotes unlimited samurai-style devotion by employees, with employers responsible for worker well-being and employment stability. Japan’s courts cite this relationship ideal to restrict employers’ legal right to dismiss workers. Therefore, to cut costs, employers have turned to increasing non-regular employees, which now comprise some 40%… Continue reading

Migrant Labour in Asia: Singapore’s Recent Riot

Memo #260

By Wajihah Hamid – wajihah.hamid [at]

Riot, angry mob? Surely unheard of in Singapore? But on Sunday, December 8, 2013, a fatal traffic accident involving a migrant worker in Singapore’s Little India sparked an angry reaction from the area’s low-waged migrant workers that morphed into a riot.

Temporary labour migration is the most… Continue reading

Tertiary Education in Mongolia: Tackling Mongolia’s Labor Deficit Problem

The Mongolian economy is booming and continues to enjoy an extremely high GDP growth rate. Economic opportunities for citizens in urban and rural settings abound. Mining is a major portion of the economy, with the massive Oyu Tolgoi mining project accounting for a third of Mongolia’s GDP. While World Bank development projects focus on infrastructure development, economic governance and institutional strengthening of the mining sector, the demand for a sufficiently educated Mongolian workforce remains unmet. Continue reading

Child Trafficking and Local Protectionism in China

Memo # 187 – Child trafficking in China is an explosive issue. Although the precise scale of human trafficking in China is unknown, children are reported to account for about 40 per cent of the total victims – a twofold increase in less than a decade. We assume the demand for child forced labour comes from illegitimate actors. But the surprising and tragic truth is that local government entrepreneurialism taps on the opportunities offered by child forced labour. This is a key contributing factor to this development. Continue reading

Is ‘Safe Migration’ Along the Thai-Lao Border Truly ‘Safe?’

Memo #157 – Since the late 1990s, international organizations and NGOs have engaged with labour migrants in the Mekong region. This includes either advocating for migrants’ rights, or launching anti-trafficking programs. More recently, the term “safe migration” has surfaced within policy circles and the broader aid community with several organizations implementing “safe migration” programs. Continue reading

Filipina Immigrant Girls’ Lived Experience in Japan

Memo #134 – Filipina women, who entered Japan as “entertainers” or as the spouses of Japanese men, sometimes left children behind to be raised by relatives in the Philippines while they built economically viable lives in Japan. More and more, the teenage children of these migrant women are entering Japan, entering Japanese schools, and entering society as an important and recent immigrant youth population. These youth are being reunited with their mothers, beginning lives with unknown step-families, and struggling to learn Japanese – which is often their third or fourth language. Most scholars focus on how immigrant youth are victimized by an assimilationist-oriented education system, with its Japanese-only language policies and hyper-competitive high school entrance exams. But this focus allows only a small glimpse of their lived experience. Continue reading

Becoming a Commercial Marriage Broker in Malaysia

Memo #133 – In the last two decades, East Asian countries have experienced a dramatic rise in international marriages. Much of it is between men in the wealthier countries of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, and women from poorer countries in the region. Among Chinese Malaysians, the number of marriages between the men and Vietnamese women increased from 28 in 2001 to 1,185 in 2005. To explain this increase, the media began to cover the proliferation of commercial matchmaking agencies in the early 2000s. But the role that Vietnamese wives play in the matchmaking business has attracted little attention. Continue reading

The Philippines’ Labour Export Policies – Pros and Cons

Memo #122 – The Central Bank of the Philippines announced recently that despite the global economic crisis, remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would hit $20 billion by the end of 2011. This is seven per cent higher than in 2010 and raised foreign exchange reserves to $76 billion, resulting in a $9 billion surplus in the country’s balance of payments. What lies beneath the surface of such good news? Continue reading

Foreign Workers and the Wildfires of Democracy in East Asia

Memo #111 – As democratic movements spread to the Middle East and North Africa, hopeful observers and nervous authoritarian leaders wondered when they will reach Asia. In fact, they already arrived there in the late 1980s. But another East Asian democratic revolution has been taking place over the past decade, brought about by foreign workers. Continue reading

Ending Islamic Solidarity in Post 9/11 Pakistan: New Restrictions on Migrants

Memo #100 – The rise of the “security state” is not just a Western phenomenon. Post 9/11 Pakistan has seen a proliferation of new surveillance technologies that created social divisions and marginalized long-term migrants previously welcomed in the name of Islamic solidarity. Continue reading