Chapter 3 Temporary labour and worker exploitation: Southeast Asian migration to Malaysia
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Policy advocates in the Global South view labour migration as a temporary but often necessary obstacle to poverty reduction and domestic development goals. In spite of forecasts by policymakers that the age of labour migration will come to an end as investment is concentrated in poor countries, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and other Asian countries are continuing to experience a mass departure of young skilled and semi-skilled workers essential to economic development. This dominant model of temporary migration is accelerating throughout Asia and the Global South as a consequence of the international system of wage inequality. This chapter focuses on Malaysia and Thailand as major temporary migration destinations and the significance of temporary migration for major global commodity chains. Through creating a flexible supply of labour through temporary labour migration to urban regions and foreign countries, multinational corporations and finance capital gain from migrant workers employed in insecure and precarious situations. The chapter examines the status of temporary labour in both countries. It also examines the effect of transnational remittances on standards of living as a consequence of labour migration and the role of export-oriented labour training programs on economic development in South and Southeast Asia. The working hypothesis of this chapter is that temporary labour migration contributes to heightened economic insecurity and poverty in countries of origin and high levels of exploitation in destination regions.

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