The transformation of Pacific Asia's international migration systems  

Award No: L324253026


Award Holders: Professor H.R. Jones

Professor A.M. Findlay

Dr M. Weiner


Period of Report: 1.1.97 to 30.11.97 (end of grant)


Institution: Universities of Dundee and Sheffield


Amount of Award: £151,436 (as raised 10.7.96)



Aims and Methods of Research


The project aims to: provide an integrated analysis of a rapidly evolving, sub-continental, international migration system; advance the fairly weak, loosely structured explanatory framework underpinning such systems; and evaluate the policy responses of selected governments, NGOs, etc., within the region to the emergent migration trends.


The principal methods employed are: the analysis of secondary data on migration for the whole region; and detailed field research in four representative locations (Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia), acquiring primary and secondary data and adopting quantitative and qualitative approaches.


Research Staff


Ms H. Kay, RA, 1.12.95-15.6.96

Ms L. Li, RF (p/t), 1.1.96-30.9.97

Ms G. Davidson, RA (p/t), 1.11.96 - 31.8.97

Ms N. Piper, RA, 1.10.95 - 30.9.97 (funded by University of Sheffield)


3 Thai PhD students (1.10.96-) and 1 Thai MPhil student (1995/96), all funded externally, have been attracted to pursue research at Dundee University on international migration topics central to the project.





Research Papers, Centre for Applied Population Research, University of Dundee:


96/1 L.Li and A.Findlay, Placing migrants' identity: interviews with Hong Kong Chinese immigrants in Britain and Canada.


96/2 H.Jones, The Asianisation of Australia's immigration programme: diversity, preferences, contradictions.


96/4 A.Findlay and L.Li, Migration channels and the migration of professionals to and from Hong Kong.


96/5 A.Findlay and L.Li, Your move or mine? An investigation of gender and migration among Hong Kong professional couples.


97/1 H.Jones, Regional economic integration, labour exports and the emergence of the East Asian labour-migration system.


97/2 A.Findlay and L.Li, Economic restructuring, flexibility and migration: Hong Kong's electronics industry in the global economy.


97/3 N.Piper, Female labour migration to Japan: myth and reality.


97/4 H.Jones and T.Pardthaisong, The commodification of international labour migration: a case study of recruitment institutions and mechanisms in Thailand.


97/5 A.Findlay, H.Jones and G.Davidson, Migration transition or migration transformation in the Asian dragon economies.


98/1 H.Jones and T.Pardthaisong, The impact of overseas labour migration on rural Thailand: regional, community and individual dimensions.


Revised versions of 96/1 and 96/4 have been published, respectively, in Int. Jo. of Population Geography, Dec. 96, 361-77, and in Transactions of Instit. of Brit. Geographers, 1996, 29-61.


Revised versions of 97/1 and 97/5 have been accepted for publication in Geoforum and Int. Jo. of Urban and Rural Research respectively.


Revised versions of 96/2, 97/2, 97/3, 97/4 and 98/1 are currently under review by journals.


Other publications


M.Weiner (ed.) (1996) Japan's Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity (Routledge), including 2 chapters by Weiner and 2 chapters co-authored.


M.Weiner, Managing Editor of Japan Forum from Jan. 1996.


L.Li (1997) Representing difference: multiple voices of migrants from Hong Kong, Scott. Geogr. Mag. 74-81.


A.Findlay and L.Li (1998) Methodological issues in researching migration, Professional Geographer (in press).


A.Findlay (1998) Academic migrants in a global city: the case of Hong Kong, Revue Europeene des Migrations Internationales (commissioned).


A.Findlay (1998) Gender and migration in Hong Kong, ch. in P.Boyle and K.Halfacree (eds.), Gender and Migration, Wiley (commissioned).


L.Li, A.Findlay and H.Jones (1998) A cultural economy perspective on service-sector migrants in the global city: the case of Hong Kong, International Migration (accepted subject to amendments).


M.Weiner (1996) Fortress Japan: racism and migrant labour, ITH Labour Movement and Migration, 240-60.


M.Weiner (1997) Rethinking the margins: migration and identity in contemporary Japan, in C.Levy (ed.) Cultural Relativism and Political Universalism in Far East Asian Societies, University of Bordeaux.


M.Weiner and Y.Iguchi (1998 forthcoming), Immigration controls and social policy in contemporary Japan, Occasional Papers in E.Asian Studies, University of Sheffield.



Engagement with Potential Research Users


Findlay presented a paper at ESRC's Hong Kong briefing for politicians and press in June, and has had subsequent ongoing discussions with one MP on migration policy issues.


Findlay has been consulted six times in 1997 by a major British NGO (TEAR Fund) working with refugees in Asia. Transfer of research results has influenced the relief and development policies of this NGO, including allocation of funds in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Findlay presented two seminars in Manila in September to (i) relief and development managers, and (ii) academics and regional ILO officials.


Jones discussed his research on illegal entry to, and working in, Australia by Thai nationals with staff at the Sydney Sexual Health Clinic in August, and also with Australian sexworker organisations lobbying for working visas for sexworker migrants. A major group of clients at the clinic, contacted through outreach work, are Thai sexworkers. This research also formed the basis of discussions in September on migrant-processing procedures with migration officers at the Australian Embassy, Bangkok, and with representatives of Friends of Thai Women Workers in Asia.


Weiner continued extensive discussions with Japanese ministries, trade unions and NGOs, and has been invited to participate in January 1998 conference on Labour Migration in Pacific Asia sponsored by Japan Institute of Labour, OECD and ILO. Piper attended meetings in Geneva in July 1997 with ILO officials.


Detailed Progress


Nearly all of the planned primary fieldwork has been accomplished, substantially according to original specification:




Research visits by Jones: March (1 week), September (3 weeks), December (3 weeks).

Setting up 2 major surveys: (i) (by a Thai PhD student) the developmental impact on rural communities of labour migration, fertility decline and AIDS, (ii) (jointly with Institute of Population and Social Research, Mahidol University) the quality of life of returned migrant workers. Continuing data analysis from 1996 surveys.


Hong Kong


Continuing data analysis of 1996 surveys of Hong Kong electronics firms, and Thai and Filipino workers. Analysis of 1996 mid-census sample survey.




Research visit by Jones (3 weeks) in September (Sydney and Canberra). Focus of work: (i) the nature of temporary migration; special tabulations commissioned from Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, (ii) interviews with Thai restaurant and sex workers to illustrate the temporary, often illegal and marginalised work of international-migrant service workers in global cities like Sydney.




Research visit by Weiner (3 weeks) in June, continuing visits to government departments and NGOs on migration policies. Seminars conducted at Kanagawa University and Sophia University.



An integration of the work of the individual researchers at the different field locations is now being undertaken. Some of the fieldwork has been planned to facilitate this, notably a focus on Thai migrants at origin and at destinations in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.


Highlights of the Research


1. Important progress continues to be made on understanding the key linkages between capital, production, cultural factors and migration. While the basis for the rapid development of the E.Asian labour-migration system has been the widening set of demographic and economic inequalities within the region, the detailed geographical pattern of ensuing labour flows reflects macroeconomic, cultural and institutional linkages that selectively channel and bond certain types of labour from particular origins to particular core economies.


2. Immigration policies, although invariably implicit rather than explicit, are a key element in maintaining the competitive position of Japan and the Asian NICs within the global economy; yet the responsibility for dealing with immigrant (especially illegal) workers has often been abrogated by the state to local authorities and NGOs.


3. The research, particularly in Hong Kong, has highlighted the multiple meanings of both migration and place, and has contributed significantly to the methodological implications of researching migrant identities.