Mobility and Precarity Panel



Migrants from Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Philippines

Migrants de la Malaisie, du Vietnam, du Myanmar et des Philippines


Sunday, October 24, 2021


09:00 – 10:45

VenueVenue 3Venue 3


Chair/Président: Geraldine Pratt, University of British Columbia

Discussant/Intervenant: Geraldine Pratt, University of British Columbia

Event poster


Beyond the Good or Global Governance of Migration: Governmentality of Irregular Migrant Workers in Sabah, Malaysia

Omer Faruk Cingir, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Malaya

Southeast Asia is one of the densely populated regions of the world in terms of migrant workers. Particularly, the Malaysian labour market is highly dependent on migrant workers. This situation raises the importance of scrutinizing the migrant workers' conditions and management in Malaysia. Especially, Southeast Asian countries are quite weak in terms of governance of migration and being party to the multilateral conventions and frameworks. The elite actors of governance such as governments, intergovernmental organizations, and regional non-governmental organizations associated with power and clout on migration governance have managed risks and uncertainties. Andrew Geddes emphasizes that looking at the “repertoires of migration governance” and these “repertoires” is crucial to comprehend the situation (2021, 2–3). These repertoires consist of narratives' stories, social interactions, emotional or instinctive responses, and performative actions rather than state policies or international frameworks. These kind of “repertoires” drive and form migration governance in Southeast Asia. In this study, in order to understand migration governance and its inadequacies in Malaysia in-depth, national and regional migration policies and international legal frameworks as well as the repertoires of immigrants and representatives of non-governmental organizations that have direct contact with migrants, are the focus. This paper specifically deals with the overall outlook of undocumented immigrants in Malaysia before, during, and after the COVID-19 era and the practices to which they were exposed. Finally, increasing inequalities, human rights violations, and disciplinary powers of governments attract attention and the importance of human-oriented policies emphasizing irregular migrants.

The new Face of Vietnamese emigration: A Comparison of Vietnamese International Students’ and Migrant Workers’ Mobilities

Anne-Cécile Delaisse, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia; Tamsin Barber, Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

While Vietnamese international students and temporary migrant workers (whose migration depends on a temporary contract for domestic or factory work) used to represent minor flows of emigration, their numbers have steeply increased in the past two decades and they have become the new face of Vietnamese emigration. Both groups fall under recent Vietnamese emigration policies and their migrations are patriotically framed as fostering Vietnam’s “development,” economic growth, and international competitiveness. However, their respective experiences of mobilities differ greatly based on intersecting identity markers and contextual factors. This presentation will draw from the literature about both Vietnamese international students and migrant workers and use the mobilities paradigm to critically compare the two groups’ migration experiences. Different aspects of their mobilities will be considered: (1) their physical mobilities and the conditions of their movements between Vietnam and other countries (2), the movement of different forms of capital associated with the movement of their bodies across borders, and (3) their social mobility resulting from their migration. While international students’ mobilities open a path to cosmopolitanism and upward social mobility, migrant workers’ mobilities are controlled and delimited in time and space and their outlooks remain local in Vietnam where their social mobility is limited. We will highlight the constraints but also the differential agency that the two groups exercise to navigate a post-colonial, capitalist, and neoliberal world through their mobilities.

Geographies of Production and Reproduction: The Case of Myanmar Migrant Workers in Thailand

Carli Melo, Graduate Program in Geography, York University

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the vulnerability of global production networks as supply chains in all sectors have been disrupted by worldwide lockdowns. The impacts of such disruption have been especially devastating for industrial workers in the global South. What has been less noticed is that many such workers are migrants, either internally from other regions of the same country or internationally across borders. The employment of migrant workers has further implications because it means that the impacts of global production networks extend not just to the factories in which goods are made, but also to the distant places of origin from which migrants are drawn, to which they often send their earnings, and to which they will often later return. In Thailand, the employment of Myanmar migrant workers in global production networks, and the everyday lives of these workers and their families, have been disrupted not only by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by a coup d’état in Myanmar. Drawing on a preliminary literature review conducted for my doctoral research proposal and my involvement in a collaborative research project with the Mekong Migration Network, this paper will explore some of the impacts of these political, social, and economic crises on Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand and on their families in their places of origin.

Araw araw, tinataya namin ang buhay namin (Everyday, we Gamble with our Lives): Filipina Migrants in Canada and Care Work

Mycah Panjaitan, York University; Jessica Ticar, York University; Ethel Tungohan, York University

In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast Asian migrants, specifically Filipina migrant care workers in receiving countries such as Canada, have been impacted by experiences of insecurity around immigration, problems of mobility, and the devaluation of an “essential” service such as care work. Using Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology and photovoice methods, our project examines the experiences of Filipina care workers in Canada during COVID-19 in the areas of their work, home, and personal lives. This project included 19 focus groups with a total of 74 participants of care workers (including Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Personal Support Workers, and Caregivers) with varying employment roles, immigration statuses, workplace situations, and socio-economic backgrounds. The narratives shared by the women further underscore the issues that were present even prior to COVID-19, such as the undervalued status of care work that is particularly racialized and gendered. The temporary status and inconsistent implementation of the pandemic pay throughout Canada, for example, poses an urgent critique to the mainstream lauding of “essential” care workers as “heroes.” Moreover, in applying an intersectional approach in examining the narratives, we find that gender, race, class, immigration status, and the migration pathways that these women use to enter Canada affect their experiences during COVID-19.

Balancing Reproductive and Productive Responsibilities: Care Strategies Implemented by Migrant Mothers in Mae Sot, Thailand

Lisa Wight, Queen’s University; Nway Oo; Tee Tar Sway; Supaporn Trongsakul; Eva Purkey; Susan Bartels; Heather Aldersey; Colleen M. Davison

Conflicts between ethnic minorities in Myanmar, the government, and the military have been ongoing for the past 50 years. Enduring unrest has caused thousands to flee to the region around Mae Sot, a city on Thailand’s western border. Women around the world assume a combination of reproductive and productive responsibilities, and during situations of armed conflict and displacement, conditions for women often worsen. This study sought to investigate the parenting experiences of female migrants from Myanmar living in protracted refugee situations in Mae Sot.

This research was part of a mixed-methods international comparative study on the experiences of parenting in adversity across five countries. In this analysis, 62 first-person qualitative narratives that were shared by migrant mothers were inductively analysed using the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven method.

The results highlight how migrant mothers undertake significant reproductive responsibilities, such as giving birth, breastfeeding, and child-rearing as well as productive responsibilities, including paid labour in the agricultural, formal, and informal sectors. In situations of migration-related adversity, productive responsibilities are placed upon women without the alleviation of their existing reproductive responsibilities. Migrant mothers must make difficult decisions about how to spend their time in order to simultaneously care for their children and financially support their families. Migrant mothers in Mae Sot utilize several different care strategies to either prioritize one responsibility over another or distribute their responsibilities amongst their children and extended family members.

Further research directions specific to migrants living in the Thai-Myanmar border region will be discussed.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |