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The Movement Of Natural Persons In Southeast Asia: How Natural?

Listed author(s):
  • Chris Manning


  • Pradip Bhatnagar

This paper is a preliminary survey of temporary labour migration (TLM) in Southeast Asia (sometimes referred to as the 'movement of natural persons'). The paper is set in the context of global patterns of international migration and policies towards migration in a multilateral context. We then discuss the inter-relationship between TLM and economic and social change in Southeast Asia over the past two decades. To a considerable extent, TLM in Southeast Asia is attributed to a widening gap in the level of national development among countries in the region, associated with contrasting economic growth performance. This contributed to a greater number, and a more varied mix, of job opportunities in the more developed countries, and associated much higher wage rates than in the lower income Southeast Asian countries.. In addition, we suggest that supply-side factors were important determinants of TLM out of less developed countries in Southeast Asia. The paper also examines national policies towards migration, and in particular how countries have coped with increasing numbers of undocumented (illegal) migrant workers. Later sections deal with the role of a regional agreement in services based on the multilateral General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS) in facilitating the movement of skilled and professional workers, and business people within the region. It finds that agreements made by the Southeast Asian countries within the ASEAN regional grouping have made only modest new commitments to TLM beyond those made through GATS. They have also qualified those commitments quite heavily to ensure that the country retains, at least potentially, policy flexibility for the protection of domestic workers. The paper closes with a few brief suggestions regarding the directions of future research on TLM in Southeast Asia.

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Paper provided by The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2004-02.

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Date of creation: Jan 2004
Handle: RePEc:pas:papers:2004-02
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  1. Rodrik, Dani, 2002. "Feasible Globalizations," CEPR Discussion Papers 3524, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Rupa Chanda, 2001. "Movement of Natural Persons and the GATS," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 631-654, May.
  3. Ruppert, Elizabeth, 1999. "Managing foreign labor in Singapore and Malaysia : are there lessons for GCC countries?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2053, The World Bank.
  4. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1998. "The Age of Mass Migration: Causes and Economic Impact," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195116519.
  5. Hal Hill & Prema-chandra Athukorala, 1998. "Foreign Investment in East Asia: A Survey," Asian-Pacific Economic Literature, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, The Australian National University, vol. 12(2), pages 23-50, November.
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