AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 205

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Session 205: Transnational Labor Migration and Regional Governance in East Asia

Organizer and Chair: Motoko Shuto, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Discussant: Maria Rosario Piquero-Ballescas, Independent Scholar, Japan

This panel intends to present the findings of scholars who have been committed to collaborative research about transnational labor migration in wider East Asia (including Southeast and Northeast Asia, particularly China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, and India).The presentations will analyze the interrelationships of rapid economic growth and crisis with asymmetrical demographic trends within East Asia and the influence of these on the patterns, sectors, and destinations of international labor migration in this wider region. The various presentations in this panel expect to discuss the following issues: 1: Major / new trends of international labor migration within East Asia; 2: Role of State and Public Institutions- characteristics of major state policies, MOUs and other agreements that regulate, control, provide services for or protection of international labor migrants; 3: Role of non-government agents in international labor migration in East Asia; 4. Role of transnational networks in international labor migration in East Asia - impacts of social networks on the local community in host countries/economies and Impacts of returnees on the local society of origin.

Development of the Emigration Policy in India
Ayako Kondo, Independent Scholar, Japan

This presentation analyzes the development of the emigration policy in India since the 1980s to the present, with special reference to unskilled/low skilled workers. India, considered to be the second largest migrant sending and biggest remittance receiving country in the world, has been sending its people to the rest of the world even before their independence. However, the Indian government was indifferent to its emigrants despite their magnitude and long history. The fact that Emigration Act 1922 (introduced under British rule) survived until 1983 indicates the indifferent attitude of the government toward this issue. The 1983 Act was introduced as a result of a new trend of mass- emigration to the Gulf and Asian countries in 1970s, when it incurred many migrant-related problems. The 1983 Emigration Act established the policy framework by setting ECR (Emigration Check Required) which required unskilled/low-skilled workers sent to certain countries (mainly Gulf and Asian countries) to go through pre-departure emigration clearance. Recruitment agents as well as employers were also required to register. The 1983 Act intended to protect vulnerable emigrants, and it became the basis of Indian emigration system. Since the 2000s, the Government of India started to reform its emigration system including the deregulation of the emigration clearance procedure and provisions for the empowerment of the emigrants. This research concludes that the development of emigration policy framework in India, which is now in a transitional phase, reflects the attitudes of Indian government toward its emigrants.

Cross-bordering Employment System in Asia: Focused in Employment Permit System (EPS) in Korea
Wonsuk Sun, Chuo University, Japan

In August 2004, the Employment Permit System (EPS) started legally to accept unskilled foreign workers in Korea. In 2007, the trainee program which was the main policy of employing foreign workers was abolished. This policy shift in Korea legally guaranteed the status of unskilled foreign workers as "a worker", which deserves a paradigm change. Unskilled foreign workers in the late 1980s appeared in Korea and increased rapidly since the 1990s. Less than 10,000 in 1988, the foreign workers increased to 700,000 in 2008, registering one of the world's most rapid migration growth. However, illegal foreign workers form a large part of Korea's foreign labor market, about 80% in 2002, which means that immigration control did not work enough in Korea. In addition to labor and employers, the state has taken a more active role in the foreign labor market. Seen from this perspective, under the dysfunctional condition of trainee system, the role of the state in the EPS has emerged as a major issue. This presentation pays attention to this shift and change in the role of the state in the EPS as part of the system of international labor market. The policy shift in the role of the state enhanced the process and management of international movement of unskilled workers in Asia. Particularly, the Memorandum signed between 17 Asian countries and Korea has required the state to control workers directly in order to reduce the illegal workers in Korea.

Japan's Immigration Control Policy: Foundation and Transition
Junichi Akashi, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Japan is widely known for its zero immigration principle and conventional idea not to rely on foreign laborers throughout the country's over 60-year postwar history. However, from around 2005, Japan's immigration policy has been under enormous pressure to transform itself. Immigration scholars, business communities, relevant ministries, and politicians within Japan's governing party have brought up a wide range of immigration policy options. Some of these options were realized while others were rejected by the ruling government within the past five years. For instance, foreign nurse/care-worker candidates began working in Japan based on the agreement for an economic partnership with Indonesia since 2008, followed by the Philippine in 2009. The foreign trainee system, having been criticized for its exploitation nature of cheap laborers, had come under scrutiny, leading to the revision of the system in 2009. Around the same time, the Japanese government launched supporting programs to assist long-term foreign residents, mostly the Latin American immigrants of Japanese descent, in the areas of education, employment, healthcare, and other social securities. Local suffrage for permanent foreign residents has also become part of the political agenda recently. This presentation examines the series of immigration policy reforms witnessed in recent years and ongoing discussions in relation to the changing socio-economic as well as political climates in Japan. It also demonstrates to what extent and in what direction the policy development has influenced and will challenge Japan's traditional view of immigration and immigrants.

Cross border migration to Thailand: Issues, Responses, and Challenges
Reiko Harima, Independent Scholar, Hong Kong

Thailand is the major receiving country for migrants in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). It hosts between 2-4 million migrants working in various sectors including agriculture, horticulture, factories, construction, mining, domestic work, and the entertainment business. Most of cross-border in-bound migration in Thailand is irregular in nature, since there are very limited channels for legal migration open to poor ordinary people. Since Thailand signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2002 and 2003 with Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Burma respectively, there have been attempts by respective governments to create legal migration channels as well as to verify the nationality of migrants who are already in Thailand. However, for various reasons, these processes post a number of challenges for most migrants and have so far not resulted in better protection of migrants rights. The first section of this presentation will provide an overview of cross-border in-bound migration in Thailand. The second section will look at the lack of protection afforded migrant workers. The third section will examine more closely the policy gaps. While mainly examining policies in Thailand, the presentation will also look at what roles regional dialogues at the GMS and ASEAN levels play in forming migration policies in Thailand. The section will also touch upon responses by migrants and migrant support groups at the local, national and sub-regional levels. Finally, the fourth section will introduce policy recommendations in order to minimize the policy gaps and to improve the lives of migrants in Thailand.

Transformation of Labor Market and Labor Export Policies in China
Lixing Chen, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

Since 1978, with progress of the market economy transformation in China, the domestic labor market changed greatly. This resulted in the collapse of the binary structure of labor market which isolated the urban and rural population up till then. After the 90's, over 300 million laborers from rural area flowed to cities and towns, which exerted great pressure not only to the domestic labor market, but also to the international labor market as well. So with the progress of economical globalization, the situation of domestic labor market and the labor export policies in China will more and more influence the international labor market. This paper reviews the changes in the domestic labor policy and labor market in China, and then discusses the transition of labor policies related to labor export. Finally, the presentation hopes to present data that will clarify the potential and the problem of the labor export of China.

Towards a Multicultural Society: Emerging Citizenship among Filipinos in Japan
Benjamin San Jose, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Although much has been written about the entertainers and undocumented blue collar workers who make up previous waves of Filipino migration to Japan, there is a growing body of research that focus on their emerging patterns of settlement. This paper explores how Filipino settlement patterns converge and impact on Japan's growing multiculturalism. While authors have discussed the role of Japan's multicultural movement towards accepting its growing foreign population, this paper will explore how the Filipino community in turn shape both Japanese multiculturalism, particularly Japan's civil society. This paper asks several questions: 1) How does Filipino settlement challenge Japan's old notions of mono-ethnic identity and citizenship? 2) What are the cumulative initiatives and advocacies of Filipino groups toward their local and national governments? 3) How do they contribute toward Japanfs multicultural initiatives and programmes? Using the theoretical lens of grassroots transnationalism or transnationalism from below, the presentation will argue that that Filipino migrant groups, through their patterns of settlement and advocacy, contribute towards a more multicultural society by challenging Japan's state sponsored internationalism through various forms of community building and engagement with local governments and civil society. This bottom-up strategy expresses transnationalism from below that challenge Japanese traditional notions of mono- ethnicity and citizenship.