Impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on returning migrants in three villages of Hard-pho, Nakham and Sinxay, Bolikhamxay Province, Lao PDR

Laos | 01.02.2021

Impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on returning migrants in three villages of Hard-pho, Nakham and Sinxay, Bolikhamxay Province, Lao PDR

Migration is the movement of a person or a group of persons, either across an international border or within a state. The movement includes a change of residence wherein the person or group who starts from their origin(s) and gets over obstacles, for example, distance and cultural and language barriers, to reach their destination(s). Examples include migration of refugees, displaced persons, economic migrants, and persons moving for other purposes, including family reunification (IOM, 2020).


Migration is complex with multiple influencing factors. At the personal and household level, migration is a function of aspirations, capabilities and opportunities to migrate (EC, n.d.). For example, a person might decide that they want to migrate because they want to earn a better income and live in better conditions in other places. Households play a key role in making migration decision in developing countries and their purposes can be mainly economical. For example, they want to migrate to diversify or maximize household income or find new opportunities to have better socio-economic status and deal with socio-economic inequalities.


Capabilities and opportunities to migrate, in turn, are based on age, sex, marital status, education, information, social networks and individuals and/ or households' ability to mobilize resources to migrate (EC, n.d.). For example, a person might not be able to migrate because they cannot afford travelling and resettlement costs. Having acquaintances or services at the destinations to help with arranging accommodation, work, health care and other needs wil ease the migration process. There have been trends of female migrants from developing countries to more developed ones given the demands for labour for domestic services.


Migration has different types which are categorized based on the nature of the movement. For example, people might be forced to move such as refugees. They might have no status, or undocumented. They might be temporary or seasonal as in the case of visitors, students or seasonal workers, or permanent (Gonzalez, 1961, 1989, 1992). These types, again, depend on the various influencing factors on the migration process.


There are cultural, socio, economic, and political push and pull factors at mezzo and macro levels at the origin, destination and locations in between that facilitate migration. Push factors force people to move out of their origins, for example, unemployment, poverty, natural disasters and wars. Pull factors draw people to their destinations, such as high living standards, good and stable income and a clean and green environment.


The push and pull factors, in turn, are linked to macro social, economic and environmental trends. Lee (1996) suggests that among other factors, migration volume correlates with the degree of diversity of areas involved, the diversity of people, economic fluctuations and the state of progress in a country or area. If major migration streams positively correlate with positive and supportive factors at the destination and negative factors at the origin, including economic conditions, their respective counter-stream positively correlate with difficulties during migration.


Haas (2010) argues that migration is part of the development which is related to modernisation, capitalist economic development, urbanisation and demographic transitions. This author points out that human and economic development is generally associated with higher overall levels of migration and mobility. Notably, migration varies as countries transit through different societal and demographic stages. In developing and urbanising stages with strong demographic growth, rural-to-urban and developing-to-developed country movement dominates. One example was the urbanization process wherein young generations move from rural areas to study, work, and live in urban areas. In advanced stages with slower demographic growth, rural-to-urban stream reduces while urban-to-urban and circular migration grows.


Advanced economies often become net importers of low-skilled labour from less developed countries (E.C, n.d.). For example, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the most advanced economies and attracted the largest proportion, around 96%, of migrant workers in Southeast Asia. These migrants come from neighbouring countries and South Asia. Most of them are low or unskilled and many are undocumented (Leng & Saravanamuttu, 2020).


The above migration trend is due to the demand for cheap labour in developed economies which, in turn, created a dual or segmented labour market. On the one hand, the native-born have access to careers, good pays and safe working conditions (Haas, 2010). On the other hand, migrants mostly serve the larger community, the elite and middle-class consumers of their host countries. They take up jobs in construction, essential services and plantations that locals avoid given these are low pay precarious labour-intensive jobs with hazardous working conditions (Leng & Sarvanamuttu, 2020).


A migration economy and a specific market are formed as people want to migrate in the context of migration restrictions. This involves immigration advisers, lawyers, recruitment agencies, smugglers, etc. A migration system and migration network develop between the origin and destination which operates under the strong influence of the states.


The states and their policies might create large movements of people, as observed in the colonization process where empires provided incentives for colonists to settle in the colonies. Another example is the state-supported development of industrial parks that attract workers from rural areas. Immigration policies aimed at regulating and controlling immigration, admissions and flows play an important role. The differentiated visa systems that many advanced countries adopt, for example, allow the selection of wanted migrants, i.e. good characteristics, well-educated and well-off, who are deemed to contribute to the development of these countries and exclude those who are not, for ex ample people with poor education and criminal records.


Publisher: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Author: Global Association for People and the Environment (GAPE) - Homelao Service Individual (NPA Consulting)

Manisone Sengdala (Co-Team Leader)

Ou-ee Kittikhoun (Co-Team Leader)

Hanh Hong Hoang (Team member)

Nguyet Thi Anh Dang (Research Advisor)

Date: 2021-03-12

Pages: 45


Impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on returning migrants in three villages of Hard-pho, Nakham and Sinxay, Bolikhamxay Province, Lao PDR


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