Category Archives: Migration

Female migrants hidden impetus behind economy

Female migrants hidden impetus behind economy

We live in a world of unprecedented mobility with an estimated 258 million international migrants globally. Women and girls represent almost half of that number. All of them want better lives and are full of hopes, ideas and aspirations. This week marks International Women’s Day. It is a time for the global community to reflect on progress made towards empowering female migrants and protecting their rights.

Female migration is nothing new. Across the globe, women have been on the move for as long as men have. What has changed over recent decades is the proportion of women in the migrant workforce, their motivations to migrate, and the role they play in the global economy – trends broadly described as the “feminisation of migration”.

These trends are particularly evident in Southeast Asia, where migration was male-dominated up to the 1980s. Today, women account for 48% of the 9.87 million migrants in the region, and their prominence is increasing by the day.

Traditionally, women in the region migrated by association – often for marriage, family reunification or to accompany a spouse migrating for work. This continues to be case in Thailand, where many migrant women from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia follow their husbands to work alongside them in agriculture, construction sites and factories.

But the rising number of women who now migrate independently suggests that this is changing. For millions of women today, migrating for work is now an attractive option. It provides an opportunity to advance socially, economically, and professionally; to improve the lives of families back home; and to obtain empowerment and autonomy.

The contributions of these women must not be discounted. For countries of origin, female migrants are an important source of remittances. We now know that migrant women, despite earning less, send a greater portion of their income home more frequently and over longer periods of time than their male counterparts. These funds often support entire families and are an effective means of poverty reduction.

For the host countries such as Thailand, migrant women now fill major gaps in the labour market. In some sectors, the participation of migrant women is staggeringly high. The construction industry, for example, employs over 200,000 women – almost 40% of all migrant construction workers. Migrant women also fill huge numbers of jobs perceived as “low status”, including domestic work, caregiving, hospitality and nursing. While often shunned by locals, these jobs are crucial and demand for workers in these sectors will increase as the population ages.

Yet despite the important roles they play, migrant women continue to be undervalued by society. Even though they work equally hard and perform most tasks as well as men (hard physical labour being the notable exception), many continue to be paid less and have less access to training and careers. This is despite labour laws that clearly stipulate that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work in Thailand, as in many other countries.

Migrant women also tend to be relegated to gender-specific job categories in industries that are less regulated. These include domestic work and entertainment, where wages are low and protection is minimal, leaving many vulnerable to exploitation. Far too often we read horror stories of domestic workers forced to work excessive hours, denied days off, subjected to physical and mental abuse, and, in extreme cases, assaulted, sometimes fatally, by their employers.

The reality for female migrants is that their gender dramatically influences their migratory experience at every stage. Many are confounded by unique challenges, from unscrupulous brokers looking to mislead and cheat them before they leave the country, to gender-based violence during transit, to abusive labour practices and lack of access to social services in countries of destination.

Even in skilled professions, migrant women often find themselves structurally disadvantaged, doing jobs for which they are over-qualified due to discrimination from employers who view them as “less capable. We therefore need to recognise that such inequalities exist and work towards gender-sensitive responses that empower women and lessen their vulnerabilities. These include promoting safer migration for women, better regulation of their recruitment and deployment, and the introduction of policies that encourage their participation in all sectors of the economy.

Public awareness is also key in combatting the stigma attached to female migration. Protecting a woman’s rights and upholding them is not solely the responsibility of governments, international organisations or non-governmental organisations. It also is the responsibility of individuals who can be empowered to promote a culture of tolerance, respect and human dignity.

As we work towards the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to recognise the role that gender plays in the lives of migrants. The situation of female migrants demands our attention and should be at the forefront of global efforts to tackle inequality. We must make every effort to ensure that their voices are heard.

Written by: Dana Graber Ladek

Source: Bangkok Post

Published on: 9 March 2018

PM pushing for more migrants to South Korea (Cambodia)

PM pushing for more migrants to South Korea

The government is pushing for an increase to the quota of Cambodian migrant workers allowed in South Korea, while at the same time fearing that a deal reached recently between Laos and Seoul on workers may actually lead to decreases in the number of Cambodians welcomed abroad.

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday weighed in on the topic during a speech to garment factory workers after meeting with South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia Kim Weon-jin.

“They regard Cambodian workers as having high standards, highly respecting the rules and having high professional ethics . . . His Excellency [Minister of Labour] Ith Sam Heng needs to work on this task in order to increase the quota,” he said.

Cambodian Ambassador to South Korea Long Dimanche, however, said on Tuesday he was concerned the quota may be reduced, as South Korea had just inked an agreement with Laos, which is not yet publicly available, on welcoming workers.

“So when Laotian workers come [to South Korea] it will cause Korea to reduce workers from all other countries,” he said, adding there are about 60,000 Cambodians in the country.

“We are requesting them not to cut the Cambodian labourers, just other countries,” he said. “Please keep the quota between 8,000 to 9,000 labourers.”

But Ministry of Labour spokesperson Heng Sour said there was no need to worry, and that South Korea “always” reserves a quota for “friends”.

“So, with the special request of . . . Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen, the total quota for Cambodian worker[s] in 2018 will not be declined but increased,” he said in a message.

The South Korean Embassy could not be reached yesterday.


Source: The Phnom Penh Post

Writer: Ben Sokhean with additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski

Date: 7 December 2017

Government studying migrant issues (Cambodia)

Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks about migration at an event yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday announced he has formed an assessment group – with representation from the ministry’s identification and immigration departments as well as the Ministry of Labour – to study the issues affecting Cambodian migrant workers and provide recommendations to fix them.

The comments, made during a workshop on migration, came a day after a World Bank report that said the number of Cambodian migrant workers would rise, and suggested steps be taken to streamline and formalise the migration process.

An average of 100 illegal Cambodian migrant workers are deported from Thailand every day, according to Kheng.

“How are we going to handle this every day?” he asked. “We need to study [this issue] and find a solution. We don’t put blame on them; we feel pity for them because they don’t understand [the process] and they believe the advertisement of the brokers who take advantage of them. We feel sorry for them, and we should not leave them behind.”

To address this, Kheng suggested the new assessment group talk to migrant workers directly and ask them questions, such as where they are from, what prompted their migration, who took them to Thailand and whether they really had jobs.

“We need to find those sources of information and then we can set a proper strategy,” he said.

The assessment group will provide recommendations to the Interior Ministry and the Labour Ministry on how to simplify the migration documentation process.

Kheng said officials are also considering the possibility of opening a passport office in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet town and in Battambang town – either at the provincial police station or at the international border crossing – to make it easier for workers to access. Workers, however, would still need to obtain visas and work permits separately.

Federico Barreras, project manager for Open Institute, said he hoped that examination of migration issues would lead to better collaboration between countries, which is also important.

“I hope that countries in the region can better understand the issues of one another,” he said.

Khun Tharo, of labour rights organisation Solidarity Center, said that while it was always good to have a group looking at migration issues, the body needed to explore in greater depth issues like social protections and living conditions.

“At the end of the day, you cannot stop people from being migrants because of economic factors,” he said.

If it wanted to curb migration, the Cambodian government should start by improving the quality of jobs at home, Tharo added, by implementing a minimum wage in industries besides the garment sector, and formalising sectors that are informal, such as construction.

By: Kong Meta and Yesenia Amaro, Phnom Penh Post

Published on: 11 October 2017


Immigrants in Taiwan welcome Asean languages programme

LIKE MANY immigrants in Taiwan as well as their children, Manida Tarnsuwan – a 45-year-old woman from Thailand, welcomes the New Southbound Policy.

Initiated by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the policy prescribes educational development for children of new immigrants to be implemented between 2016 and 2020.

“Opportunities I’ve found here make me feel equal, even though I was not born here,” Manida said.

Married to a Taiwanese man and settled in Taiwan, she is also known as Manida Lai.

At present, she has been receiving training on how to serve as an assistant teacher for Thai-language classes.

Starting in 2019, every primary school in Taiwan will include seven Asean languages as elective subjects in response to the New Southbound Policy. The languages are Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Burman, Indonesian, Cambodian and Filipino.

“One in 10 primary students in Taiwan are children of immigrants. We think it necessary to let them learn the mother language of their parents,” Taiwan’s Education Minister Pan Wen- chung  said.

He believed it was also useful for children whose parents were both Taiwanese to learn Asean languages.

Manida said the New Immigrants Learning Center at Zhanghe Junior High School had taught Asean languages for several years already.

Taiwan’s capital Taipei has been home to about 100,000 foreign spouses and children of Taiwanese nationals. The biggest immigrant group is Vietnamese followed by Indonesian, Myanmar and Thai.

Yen-che Gu, senior specialist of the New Taipei City Government, where the New Immigrants Learning Center is located, said the languages would connect children with their ethnic roots.

“If they have opportunities, they may be able to go back to the home country of their parent and contribute to its development,” Gu said.

Wen-Ching Ho, principal of New Taipei Municipal Zhanghe Junior High School, said his school had already started offering |Asean languages as electives.

His school conducts classes for children from kindergarten up to junior secondary education. Students include children of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Indonesian origin, not just those born to Taiwanese couples.

“Of all three Asean-language choices, we began teaching Vietnamese already because we successfully recruited a Vietnamese teacher. She moved to Taiwan after marrying a local man here,” Ho said.

He added that the teacher had also received teacher training from Taiwan’s Education Ministry.

Increased job opportunities

Another Vietnamese woman from Kaohsiung Taiwan said she felt glad the Taiwanese government had offered free teacher training to interested immigrants.

“I have received 36 hours of free training and received a certification to serve as an assistant teacher now. My field is the Vietnamese language,” she said.

The assistant teacher said she was happy children of immigrants had an opportunity to learn the mother languages of their parent and for children of Taiwanese parents to have an opportunity to learn Asean languages.

“If you can speak an Asean language, your job opportunities grow,” she said.

Deng Jin Ti, a Vietnamese woman living in Taiwan, said the government’s Asean-language project had enhanced her status as a teacher of Vietnamese. “Although I can speak Vietnamese fluently, it’s not easy to teach others without training. With the proper training, I have acquired teaching techniques and skills,” she said.

Married to a Taiwanese man for 12 years, she has taught Vietnamese to Taiwanese investors who were interested in expanding their businesses in Vietnam.

Ker-Wei Yu, a professor in the Department of Marine Engineering at the University of Science and Technology of Kaohsiung, said his institute had already trained so many teachers through the Second Generation of New Immigrants Overseas Empowerment programme.

“We have provided training so as to produce teachers for the Asean courses that will start in 2019,” he said.

A schoolboy said he could speak Vietnamese because his mother came from Vietnam.

“If the government will offer Vietnamese language course, I will definitely join the class so that I can learn Vietnamese reading and writing,” he said. “If possible, I will apply for jobs in Vietnam after my graduation.”

Wanpen Huang, who has spent the last 30 years in Taiwan after marrying a Taiwanese man, admitted that she did not teach Thai to her children or grandchildren.

“But if the government offers Thai language courses, I will definitely persuade my grandchildren to enrol,” she said.


By: Chularat Saengpassa, The Nation

Published on: 9 October 2017


Hun Sen Ramps Up Pitch to Garment Workers for 2018 Vote

Days after promising garment workers a minimum wage of at least $168 starting next year, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday made another pitch for their votes in the July national election with a “three asks” policy.

In a jab at the opposition CNRP and independent unions, he said he would also speak to the U.N. about launching an investigation into who led the mass protests and garment strikes that followed 2013’s disputed national vote. Mr. Hun Sen also speculated that a young man whose body was never found after a January 3, 2014, protest during which military police shot and killed at least five workers may instead have been a victim of drugs.

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to thousands of garment workers on Wednesday at Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, photograph posted to his Facebook page.

During the 2014 protest, along Phnom Penh’s industrial Veng Sreng street, a witness said he saw Khem Sophath lying on the ground bleeding profusely. His family says he has not been seen since and his body was never found. Rights groups and opposition lawmakers have criticized the government’s investigation into the case, which has turned up nothing.

On Wednesday, speaking to thousands of garment workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, Mr. Hun Sen said Khem Sophath’s disappearance might have had nothing to do with the protest. Instead, he turned the blame on those pushing for the investigation to move forward and said those behind the protest should be arrested.

“[He’s] missing. Sometimes they may involve drugs,” he said of missing persons cases. “Then they ask the government to find him. The leaders of the demonstration should be put in jail.”

Leaders of some of the country’s independent unions were charged over the strikes and protests that hit the garment sector in the wake of the 2013 elections, though none have been jailed. In 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court also questioned CNRP President Kem Sokha, the party’s vice president at the time, over both the garment protests and several demonstrations the opposition led challenging the results of the election, which it accused the ruling CPP of stealing.

“One day I will talk about this issue to the United Nations, whether we should investigate and arrest the leaders of the demonstrations for questioning,” Mr. Hun Sen said on Wednesday.

The prime minister also rolled out what he called the CPP’s “three asks” policy to win the garment worker vote next year, describing a push to increase foreign aid, foreign investment and exports. Garment exports topped $6 billion last year and accounted for the bulk of export earnings.

Mr. Hun Sen called the opposition the “three don’ts” party for allegedly opposing all three initiatives.

The CNRP has urged foreign governments to make their aid, investments and imports contingent on human rights and democratic reforms in Cambodia.

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay on Wednesday rejected the prime minister’s characterization, insi-

sting the party was for any business with other countries that helped Cambodians.

“It is not like the prime minister claimed. We encourage our people to get a higher income, like urging investment in Cambodia to reduce the number of migrant workers,” he said.


By: Ben Sokhean, Cambodia Daily

Published on: 24 August 2017

Back to Top