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March 1996, Volume 3, Number 3

International Labor migration of Asian Women: Distinctive Characteristics and Policy Concerns

Lim, Lin and Nana Oishi. 1996. International Labor migration of Asian Women: Distinctive Characteristics and Policy Concerns. Geneva: ILO.

This report says that some 800,000 Asian women leave their country of nationality for foreign jobs each year, and that they stay abroad an average two years, so that about 1.5 million mostly Indonesian, Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Thai women are employed as maids and entertainers in Asia and the Middle East. In some labor-importing countries, half of the Asian women are working illegally.

The report places much of the blame for the migration of women, and the conditions in which they live and work, on labor contractors and brokers, who are involved in the migration of 90 percent of all Asian women: "Were it not for illegal recruitment agencies...Asian labor migration would not have reach such a massive scale." The majority of women migrating for jobs from Indonesia and Sri Lanka do so illegally.

However, sending countries can do little to police labor brokers--the report says that governments in immigration countries must enforce THEIR labor laws to protect female migrants.