Thematic Introduction: Migration Challenges in the Asia Pacific Region in the Twenty-First Century

Amarjit Kaur and Ian Metcalfe

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Trans-Asian labour migration, a defining feature of Asian globalisation prior to 1940, comprised mainly Chinese and Indian emigration to Southeast Asia and was quantitatively and qualitatively as significant as European transatlantic migration. Although migrant workers were regarded as sojourners, they established diasporic communities across the region, particularly in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. After the Second World War and problems of decolonisation, unskilled labour migration came to a halt.

Since the 1980s, Asia and Australia have re-emerged as major players in global migration in terms of its scale, diversity and significance. The emergence of new regional migration patterns, the rapid growth in the demand for professionals and skilled migrants in specific occupational categories, and the creation of subregional labour markets are all manifestations of the scale and diversity of current migratory movements in the region.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Kaur, Amarjit and Metcalfe, Ian. Thematic Introduction: Migration Challenges in the Asia Pacific Region in the Twenty-First Century. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2007, vol.9, no.2, pp.131-134. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574.

About the Guest-Editors

Amarjit Kaur is professor of economic history at the University of New England, Armidale (Australia). Her research interests include globalisation and labour
migration, evolving border controls in Southeast Asia, and the politics of labour protections and human rights policies in Asia. Recent publications include Wage Labour in Southeast Asia since 1850 (2004) and, co-edited with Ian Metcalfe, Mobility, Labour Migration and Border Controls in Asia (2006). Email: akaur(at)

Ian Metcalfe is adjunct professor in the School of Environmental and Rural Science, and deputy director of the Asia Centre at the University of New England. His diverse research interests include earth sciences (tectonics, palaeogeography and mass extinctions) and socio-economic (gender and labour studies and migration) and environmental (climate change) issues relating to East and Southeast Asia. Email: imetcal2(at)

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