Professor Michele Ford
Presented by: Professor Michele Ford, Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, University of Sydney
Since the 1970s, there has been an enormous expansion of temporary labour migration within Asia. Some foreign workers are highly skilled, highly mobile expatriates looking to expand their professional horizons. Millions of others, however, are employed on limited-term contracts in a diverse range of blue-collar occupations, in the service sector, or as para-professionals in industries like healthcare. Although the marginality of these foreign workers in the wealthier labour markets of the region is in large part defined by the uncertainty of their migration status, migration status is not its only determinant. Temporary labour migrants’ capacity to access the protections available to citizens is also dictated by their labour market position, which in turn determines their access to the formal industrial relations system of the destination country. In this paper, I propose an integrated approach that positions migration and employment relations as mutually constituting axes of a country-specific labour migration regime that determines the extent to which migrant workers can operationalize their labour rights, including access to representation by a trade union. This model is then operationalized with reference to the seven main destination countries for temporary labour migrants in Asia.
Michele Ford is Professor of Southeast Asian Studies and Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney, where she holds an ARC Future Fellowship. Michele’s research interests focus on Southeast Asian labour movements, trade union aid, and trade union responses to labour migration in East and Southeast Asia. She is the author of Workers and Intellectuals: NGOs, Unions and the Indonesian Labour Movement (NUS/Hawaii/KITLV 2009), editor of Social Activism in Southeast Asia (Routledge 2013), and co-editor of several volumes including Beyond Oligarchy: Wealth, Power, and Contemporary Indonesian Politics (Cornell SEAP 2014) and Labour Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives (Routledge 2012). She has just completed the manuscript of a new volume, entitled From Migrant to Worker: Trade Union Responses to Temporary Labor Migration in Asia.
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