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Title: Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia: From preferred migrants to 'last to be hired' workers
Contributor(s): Kaur, Amarjit  (author)
Publication Date: 2005
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Abstract: One of the most striking changes in the character of international labour migration in Southeast Asia in the second half of the twentieth century has been the great increase in the scale, complexity, and significance of Indonesian labour migration to Malaysia. In the first half of the century, Indonesians comprised the third largest migrant labour group (after Chinese and Indians), and were welcomed both as settlers and temporary indentured workers. Their movement to Malaya was also unrestricted. Since the 1980s economic, social, and demographic changes in the region, consistent with accelerated globalization, have profoundly affected Indonesian labour migration to Malaysia. The destinations of Indonesian labour migrants currently overlap national boundaries to a far greater extent than before, and many more have acquired the ability to move as free workers. Migration is also consistent with network-creating in both Malaysia and Indonesia – to influence, control, and regulate the recruitment process, labour standards and remittance payments. Paradoxically, although the economic incentives for Indonesians to have become stronger, Malaysia’s immigration policies and intensified border controls not constitute the principal barrier to greater Indonesian labour migration into Malaysia.This Paper examines Indonesian labour migration to Malaysia in historical and contemporary perspectives, focussing on migration goals and changing border control policies. It also reviews the widening economic, social and demographic gap between the two countries in the second half of the century and outlines recent migration streams, recruitment patterns and state regulatory practices, and the growth of illegal migration to Malaysia.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: RIMA: Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 39(2), p. 3-30
Publisher: Association for the Publication of Indonesian and Malaysian Studies
Place of Publication: Australian National University, Canberra
ISSN: 0815-7251
Field of Research (FOR): 160303 Migration
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Other Links:;res=APAFT;dn=200604719
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