UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
You are in the MOST Phase I website (1994-2003).
The MOST Phase II website is available at: www.unesco.org/shs/most.


Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN)

Migration Issues in the Asia Pacific


    A. Introduction

One of the prominent features of contemporary living is that our world is in constant flux and inhabited by mobile people. Thus, we are confronted by a persistently changing configuration of population over space and time. This liberating mobility is generally deemed inherent to the growth and advancement of the individual and the larger society of the individual’s affiliation.

The complexity of human spatial mobility renders it a subject of intense research and policy interest. The movement of Filipinos within the country and to other nations in the global community of nations has been studied in the past by a large number of scholars and institutions. The efforts are reflected by the substantial literature on a wide range of subject matter characterised by a diversity in the approaches of study and the insights offered. It is therefore appropriate to take stock of what has been done and what needs to be done in migration research.

This paper is motivated by the need for an inventory of completed migration studies. In so doing, research gaps can be identified and accorded attention in the future. An immediate outcome of this exercise is a research agenda for migration in the Philippines. It is hoped that such an agenda can contribute to the advancement of scientific inquiry on a subject as crucial and significant as migration to the growth and development of the Filipino and the nation of Filipinos.

    B. An Assessment of Existing Migration Literature

An overview of research in the parallel processes of internal and international migration indicates the following strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature in the Philippines:

i) An adequacy of studies on national levels, trends, and patterns of lifetime and period migration using census data on fixed period residences. Migration selectivity and differentials have likewise been investigated sufficiently using the same data sets. This, however, can only be said of internal migration.

ii) An unbalanced treatment of the dynamics of migration decision-making and of its consequences with a fair amount of exclusivity of focus on the economic dimensions of the processes. An associated observation is the scarcity of studies on the dynamics of non-migration. Both observations are generally true for internal and international migration studies.

iii) A prevalence of studies employing the individual migrant as the unit of analysis in studies of the determinants and consequences of migration. Consequently, the social context and the role of family and other social networks at source and host communities are hardly taken into account. This situation is true for both internal and international migration studies conducted in the past.

iv) Inadequate studies of the social impacts of migration at the macro-level. Relatively little is known on whether migration contributed to social disorganisation and disruptions of the normative environments of both source and host communities. Thus the understanding of the interrelations between population distribution, migration, and changes in social structures in the country remains vague despite the universal awareness of the critical role migration plays in shaping the socio-economic conditions in both rural and urban places that determine the development of the nation as a whole.

At the international level, little is known on regional interdependence and inter-state relations in the Asia-Pacific region that could affect the integration of the country in the regional and global economic orders. Likewise, literature on ethnic conflicts and migrant integration into host countries is relatively thin.

v) An emerging paradigm of migration based on the transformation in the types of movements and in the composition of migrants themselves over time. This change suggests the importance of the changes in the socio-economic milieu that influences the nature and character of both internal and international migration.

There is clearly a need to investigate more closely the temporary types of migration as manifested by circulation between urban places in the country and the repeat circulation of overseas contract workers between the Philippines and the non-traditional newly industrialising destinations in the Asia-Pacific region.

vi) Specific to international migration is the inadequacy of studies on marriage migrations that certainly have impact on the individual Filipinas and on the broader field of competition and conflict in global marriage markets.

vii) Insufficiency of data to allow studies of the emerging temporary migrations. Fixed period residence data available from the census do not capture the emerging repeat temporary movements. Similarly, small scale in-depth studies of overseas labour migration cannot generate national estimates of circular labour migration. The rare studies on Filipino brides in foreign lands and on the permanent settlers holding immigrant visas likewise cannot provide accurate estimates of the levels of international migration.

A review of available data sets underscores the compartmentalisation of institutions and agencies that constrain researchers to produce reliable estimates of international migration out of and into the country. In the same manner, local governments are faced with the difficulty of estimating the net increase or decrease of municipal populations due to migration.

The basic issue here is the crucial need to collect data with the appropriate richness to permit the testing of competing theories and variables in the emerging forms of migration. The development of a data base for migration is a prerequisite in obtaining more reliable estimates of population change due to migration in both local and national levels for given periods of time. This is crucial in view of the devolution of development planning functions to local governments.

viii) A better understanding of migration as a process necessarily entails an interdisciplinary approach among scholars of different disciplines such as sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology, among others. One notes a yawning gap in interdisciplinary studies on migration in the Philippines.

    C. Migration Research: Future Directions

The task of formulating a migration research agenda for future implementation can be tackled with the above observations on the existing literature serving as a guide. An organising framework for migration studies proposed by a group of researchers on international migration is in many ways applicable to internal migration studies. With a little modification, it is borrowed for purposes of classifying the broad range of subject areas of study in migration research into a manageable number of well-defined clusters (see Figure 1).

As the framework indicates, studies on migration can be conducted on two levels: the micro and the macro. In both levels of analysis, studies can be grouped into the following clusters: (1) studies of migration selectivity and differentials; (2) studies of determinants and consequences; (3) studies of adaptation and acculturation; (4) measurement of levels/trends and description of patterns of movements; (5) studies of migration in relation to other demographic processes such as fertility, and mortality; (6) studies of migration in relation to other development processes such as rural development, urbanisation, and regional and global interdependence; and (7) policy studies.

The above cluster classification is elaborated further by specifying subject areas within each cluster represented by various topics of research to address the many concerns and issues associated with internal and international migration. To set the formulation of a research agenda in motion, a tentative list of research topics appears in Appendix 1. The observations on the existing literature discussed in a previous section were considered in drawing this list. It is by no means exhaustive, but it can provide the necessary impetus towards migration research gaps and needs.

Given this tentative list, an inventory and assessment of existing data sets should be carried out to check on whether secondary analysis of existing data along the suggested topics can be conducted. It has been noted that most migration data sets are from small-scale surveys that give cross-sectional information. Such data is constrained by its inability to capture the variability of the migration process. Residence history data can overcome such limitations. Perhaps it is time the Philippines conducted a National Migration Survey and learns lessons from the experiences of some of its neighbouring countries which have conducted such a survey. However, there has to be a statistical system that would ensure balance between data production and data analysis.

As an initial activity, it is proposed that the Philippine Migration Research Network look into a compilation and evaluation of migration data sets, and the production of a compendium of completed studies in internal and international migration. These two major activities are aimed at strengthening migration data base development.

    D. Conclusion

While recognising that specificity in the identification of future research in migration is necessary, it is not sufficient unless such studies are conducted with an understanding of emerging social systems and the community contexts.

It has been repeatedly documented that migration varies with changes in the community as well as with the life cycle and socio-economic characteristics of the persons. It is not being too solicitous to emphasise the need to look into the household context of the migration decision-making process and its impacts and consequences (as indicated in Figure 2).

My preference for the household approach with which future migration research is to be undertaken is nothing but a correction of individual-level analyses of the past. There has to be understanding and appreciation of the fact that the household weaves together community and individual characteristics. Individuals are embedded in families and families are embedded in communities, linking individuals to the broader society. Migration research can contribute to the integration of population issues such as population size, age–sex composition, and spatial distribution in both local and national development planning and for policy formulation.

Figure 1

Figure 2

    Appendix 1

Tentative List of Migration Research Topics for Future Implementation

I. Studies of Migration Selectivity and Differential

a) Comparative Analysis of Permanent and Temporary Migration Selectivity and Differentials

b) Community Characteristics and Migration Destination Choices of Permanent and Temporary Migrants

II. Study of Determinants and Consequences

a) Comparative Analysis of Determinants of Permanent and Temporary Migration

b) Analysis of Social Costs of Migration on Families Left Behind:

  • Overseas Contract Work and Its Impact on Adolescent Risk Behaviour
  • Overseas Contract Work and Its Impact on Family Stability
  • Overseas Contract Work and Its Impact on Children’s School Performance

c) Analysis of Role of Remittances and the Development of Source Communities

  • Migration Remittance and its Effects on Household Resource Allocation

d) Analysis of Psychosocial Disruptions on Migrant Workers Performance

e) Analysis of Gender Differentials in Occupational Stratification and Job Satisfaction Among Migrant Workers

f) Labor Migration, Ethnic Inequality, and Social Structural Assimilation

g) Analysis of Acculturation of Filipina Wives of Foreign Spouses

III. Study of the Interrelationship of Migration with Other Social and Economic Processes

a) Migration and the Growth of Secondary Cities in the Philippines

b) Comparative Analysis of the Contribution of Migration to Metropolitan Area Population Change and City-Suburb Redistribution: Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao

c) Maternal Rural-urban Migration and its Effects on Child Survival

IV. Study of Origin-Destination Linkages

a) Migration Networks and Migrant Participation in Community Organisations

b) Regional Interdependence, Migration, and Regional Development

V. Policy Studies

a) Analysis of the Effects of Government-sponsored Industrial Deconcentration on Regional Population Spatial Distribution in the Philippines

b) Study of Mechanisms and Nature of Bilateral Agreements Between Countries of Emigration and Immigration on the Protection of Human Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families

To MOST Clearing House Homepage

bottom line