The Rohingya, Ethnic Minorities, and Myanmar’s Enduring Dilemma

Memo #285

By Kazi Fahmida Farzana – fahmida [at]

Will Myanmar’s Political Transition be able to Solve the Lingering Nationality Question of its Ethnic Minorities?

Myanmar in recent years has been experiencing substantive political changes in its political system with implications for its domestic policies and international relations. Since its November 2010 national elections… 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

Why do Chinese Migrants Have to Pay so Much to Work Overseas?

Memo #135 – Unskilled workers from China have to pay exorbitant costs to work abroad in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, their top three choices. Fees, averaging 8,000 USD, are not charged by human smugglers but licensed employment intermediaries. In fact, transnational labour migration through legal channels costs significantly more than illegal migration. This is not unique to China. Across Asia, the percentage of legal migrants is increasing – more than 800,000 Chinese by the end of 2011 compared to less than 60,000 in 1990. Why is the cost increasing? Because Asian states rely on intermediaries. Continue reading


Memo #135 – 日本,新加坡和韩国是目前接纳中国非技术劳工最多的三个国家;中国人去这三个国家打工,要付8,000美元的中介费。这些钱不是给人贩子,而是给有正规执照的中介机构。事实上,通过合法途径出国打工的成本要明显高于非法迁移。这并不是中国特有的现象。在亚太地区,合法移民的比例在增加——2011年底有80多万中国人在境外就业,大大高于1990年的6万人——但是成本也大幅度增加了。其原因就在于,亚太国家依赖于中介机构管理跨国劳动力流动。 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

South Korea’s Immigrant Incorporation Strategy

Memo #127 – In July 2002, the mayor of Seoul conferred honourary residency status on Guus Hiddink, a Dutch soccer manager who advanced the Korean soccer team to the World Cup quarter finals. In contrast, in October 2009 the government deported Minu, a migrant worker and activist from Nepal, who had lived in Korea for 18 years and had been active in organizing migrant workers. These two vignettes demonstrate how the Korean government treats immigrants differentially. Continue reading

한국정부의 이민자 정책

Memo #127 – 2002년 월드컵의 열기가 채가시기 전인 2002년 7월에, 서울시는 당시 대한민국 축구 국가대표팀 감독이었던 거스 히딩크 감독에게 명예 서울 시민증을 수여했다 반면 2009년 10월 한국에 18년 동안 있으면서 이주노동자 운동에 앞장섰던 네팔인 미누씨를 강제추방했다. 이 두 사건은 한국 정부의 차별적 이주자 정책을 단적으로 보여 준다. 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