UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
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Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN)

Migration Issues in the Asia Pacific


The Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN) was initiated by a number of scholars throughout the Asia Pacific to develop institutional links and implement a research project entitled New Migrations and Growing Ethno-Cultural Diversity in the Asia Pacific Region. The research project, coordinated by the Centre for Multicultural Studies, University of Wollongong, was approved by UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme for seed funding and project support in 1995.

This series of working papers of the UNESCO-MOST Asia Pacific Migration Research Network is part of the mission of the APMRN to research and publish trends and developments in the population movements of the Asia Pacific region. The working papers will be published regularly and will aim to provide reports on current research being undertaken by APMRN members. The working papers will be available through the APMRN and will allow researchers the opportunity to publish work-in-progress for the benefit of their Network colleagues, as well as other interested scholars, policy makers and students.

This is the first in the Working Papers series. It is a compilation of the Issues Papers each APMRN international delegate was asked to prepare for the first international conference of the APMRN in Bangkok, March 1996. The conference received the Issues Papers and used them as a basis for developing the research plan of the APMRN.

This volume contains eleven papers slightly updated since their original presentation in March 1996. Each of the papers vary in scope and structure, but were prepared according to the following guidelines:

  • main issues concerning migration and ethnocultural diversity;
  • major policy issues;
  • the state of research on these themes;
  • progress in establishing national research networks to link up with the APMRN;
  • key research themes for the next five years;
  • ideas on international research projects and priorities.

It is evident from the contents of this volume that the Asia Pacific region is diverse in its experience of migration and development. Asia, which is sometimes divided into South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and more recently including Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, comprises dozens of nations with dozens of different languages and cultures. But where this diversity is apparent, it is the effects of globalisation, of integrating global wealth into one fluid market, which are shrinking the boundaries and challenging concepts of ethnicity, polity and socio-spatiality throughout the region.

Migration research is a relatively new field of study to the region. In fact, it is a conglomerate of a number of disciplines and the authors of the papers in this volume have varied academic and research backgrounds. It is clear, however, that migration research is crucial to an area which is experiencing such rapid transformations in economy and society.

This volume addresses some key themes of migration research: labour migration; border controls and border economies; sex workers, domestic workers, and the feminisation of migration; skill depletion as a result of out-migration; ethnic tensions in receiving countries; legal and illegal migration. The development of a 'migration industry', largely in private and sometimes illegal hands, is also covered in a number of the papers. The 1987 Coup in Fiji is discussed as a specific 'push' factor, highlighting not only ethnicity issues but also the problems of monitoring population movements as a result of sudden or imposed politcal developments. The Chinese takeover of Hong Kong is also analysed as a factor in shaping Hong Kong's demographic profile and changing government policy. Finally, rural-urban migration is addressed in the context of China, where the numbers of people moving from rural areas to urban centres are in some cases larger than the combined international migration movements of many of the Asia Pacific countries. The regulation of China's rural minority groups is also akin to international border regulation.

Overall, migration has become an important political and social issue in the Asia Pacific. Its significance as a regional issue is evidenced in the changing emphasis from migrations to countries outside the region (Gulf Oil countries, USA and Europe), to intra-regional migrations and the formations of communities.

By identifying specific problems within a regional framework, the authors aim to provide the basis for practical application of their ongoing research. In terms of methodology, one of the functions of the Issues Papers was to identify the range and access to information on migration-related data. Each country has different data collection procedures, with varying degrees of accessibility. In some cases migration statistics are scant or poorly documented by governments and are not always in the public domain. Compatible and accessible data collection is a first step to building migration research in the Asia Pacific.

By applying innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to migration studies, and utlising the broad skill base of the Asia Pacific Migration Research Network, it is anticipated that the work of the APMRN will be a valuable contribution to social scientific inquiry and public policy, and ultimately, to improved understanding of regional development in the Asia Pacific.

    Patrick Brownlee
    APMRN Secretariat

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