Migrants on the move in Asia

Publication Date: January 1996

Publisher: East-West Center

Author(s): Philip Martin

Research Area:

Type: Report

Coverage: Asia


Millions of Asians are leaving home in search of work. About half leave Asia, but the other half stay in the region. Most of those who stay go to East Asia where booming economies need workers but where aging populations have fewer and fewer of them. Many countries are thus increasingly dependent on foreign workers, but most don't want to be. Governments and citizens worry about the effects of migrants on domestic economies and also fear that migrants, especially those that settle, will bring languages, customs, and religions that could threaten local cultures. Yet efforts to control migration have mostly failed: more than half of Asia's migrant workers are illegal. All indicators point to more, not less, migration in the years ahead. Despite this, many Asian leaders are unwilling to plan for migration. They claim that Asia's closed societies will discourage migrants from settling. But there is little evidence to suggest that their optimism is justified. And unmanaged migration could aggravate tensions between countries and even slow the region's economic development.