The Migration Industry and Women Migrant Workers’ Security in ASEAN

Dr Shih Joo Tan1, Associate Professor Marie Segrave1

1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

It is well-established that state institutions and contemporary border controls play a significant role in shaping and controlling migrants’ mobilities. However, recent research from Asia points to the increasingly decentralised nature of the labour migration infrastructure wherein the cross-border network of third-party migration intermediaries is playing an increasingly important role in organising, facilitating, processing and governing the mobility of migrant workers. They serve a quasi-governmental function in the documentation and processing of migrants, while also offering a diverse range of for-fee services to help prospective migrants navigate the complex labyrinth of migration-related processes, laws and regulations.

Drawing on research with women migrant workers in ASEAN, this paper aims to explore the role that these third-party intermediaries play in migration governance, with emphasis on the consequences for their conflicting responsibilities to facilitate ‘safe and orderly’ migration, while ‘protecting’ migrant workers. What functions do they perform in the labour migration context? What are their relationships with state apparatuses and migrant workers at the local level? How does state reliance on these third-party intermediaries to ‘govern’ and ‘protect’ migrant workers intersect with wider structures of inequality and opportunity to enhance or limit protection for workers?


Dr Shih Joo Tan is a post-doctoral research fellow with the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, and a researcher with the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre. Shih Joo holds a PhD in Criminology from Monash University. Her research is interdisciplinary and focuses on gendered labour, migration, regulation, human security, exploitation and criminalisation. Most recently, she has published on countertrafficking responses in Southeast Asia, looking specifically at the impacts and effectiveness of legal and protection mechanisms. Shih Joo’s current research is focused on the experiences of security and safe work in the everyday home-workplace for female migrant domestic workers.


Dec 10 2021