«International Labour Migration and its Implication in the APEC Region Rashid Amjad1 Introduction For those trying to find answers to the large number ...»
Rashid Amjad 15
International Labour Migration and its Implication
in the APEC Region
For those trying to find answers to the large number of unresolved
and pressing issues resulting from international labour migration, the
economies of APEC and their future development provide an area of very
special interest. APEC2 includes amongst its member economies the world’s
two largest exporters of labour, namely Mexico and the Philippines, as well
as the world’s three largest destinations for permanent migration, namely, the United States, Canada and Australia. It includes economies, which both import as well as export labour and economies which have passed through the “turning point” or transition from a labour exporting to a labour importing country. It also includes the world’s most populous economy, the People’s Republic of China, which still exercises strict controls on labour migration, a situation, which could change dramatically in the foreseeable future. APEC, including as it does all the major economies in the fastest growing dynamic economic region in the world, is also ideally placed to provide an answer to the growing debate on whether globalisation will accelerate or slow down the present labour migratory pressures.
Yet, so far the issue of international labour migration has not figured prominently and indeed been somewhat played down in the deliberations of APEC. Although some recent initiatives3 have been taken to support and facilitate the mobility of qualified persons through sharing of labour market information on skills, wages and working conditions, among The author is Director of the ILO’s South East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Advisory Team (ILO/SEAPAT) based in Manila. The views expressed in this article are his personal views and in no way reflect those of the ILO. The author would like to express his thanks to Mr. G. Battistela, Mr. W.D. Salter, Mr. G. Bhattacharya, Mr. M.I.
Abella, Mr. P. Wickramasekara, Mr. A. Oberai and Mr. J. Connell for their assistance in the preparation of this paper. The assistance of the ILO Office, Mexico and ILO Multidisciplinary Team, Santiago, in providing information on Latin American countries is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are also due to Ms. K. Landuyt for her assistance in the translation of documents from Spanish into English.
APEC members include Australia, Brunei Darusalam, Canada, Chile, the Peoples Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and USA.
See APEC Joint Ministerial Statement on Human Resource Development, Manila, 11 January 1996.
16 The Lahore Journal of Economics, Vol.1, No.1 others, the more critical issue of how governments can learn from each others’ experiences and cooperate to manage and cope better with the legal and illegal flows of labour across international borders, including most importantly affording better protection to migrant workers, has not been directly examined. While APEC has rightly concentrated on human resources development issues, amongst others in order to provide and improve needed skills that would better facilitate the movements of capital, goods and services amongst member economies, the broader issue of how best to develop and utilise the common pool of all i.e., skilled and unskilled human resources, has not been taken up, even though it has been raised by some of the member economies.
The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the key issues which confront the member APEC economies arising from both the legal and illegal movements of labour across international boundaries, mainly to draw attention to the advantages that may accrue from discussing these issues in the APEC forum. In order to identify these key problems and issues the paper starts by presenting a brief review of existing labour flows within the APEC regions. There is also a brief discussion on some of the current explanations of how best to explain these flows and more important on the possible impact of globalisation and increasing trade liberalisation on the quantum and pace of the international movements of labour, in the APEC region.
Trends in International Labour Migration4
The fact that international migration issues figure prominently on the national agenda and preoccupy an increasing number of governments across the globe reflected the spread of labour migration across nations.
While reliable estimates are difficult to establish, the ILO estimates that, if one disregards the situation in the successor states of the USSR, there are between 35 and 40 million persons economically active in a country other than their own in the world today, legally or illegally, and that they are accompanied by at least as many dependents (see Table-1).
No classification can neatly and comprehensively capture the variety of today’s international labour migrants. Even the former distinctions between temporary migrants or contract workers and permanent settlers have become blurred. Unskilled or semi-skilled labour, including mainly farmers or peasants, who leave temporarily or permanently in search of wage-paid activities represent an important component of cross-border migrants. Skilled industrial or construction workers, who move individually This section is based on ILO (1996).
Rashid Amjad 17 or as part of an enterprise’s labour force, constitute another sizeable element of present-day migrants. Highly qualified professionals and managers move much more than previously across the globe, both within and outside transnational enterprises. There is also a small but significant number of young persons, sponsored through government channels, for upgrading their skills in foreign enterprises, and who increasingly perform as normal workers, as well as entrepreneurs admitted by countries on the promise of citizenship if they bring along sufficient funds to generate employment for themselves and for others.
Broadly speaking, following these classifications, two kinds of international labour flows can be distinguished. The first are the movements of highly qualified professionals and managers across all countries of the world whether developed or developing. The second is the movement of mainly unskilled or semi-skilled workers who seek employment in lower rung jobs, mostly in high- and middle-income countries. The exceptions to this general pattern are countries with small populations (e.g. Brunei Darussaiam, the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Malaysia), which are in need of migrants across the whole skill range, as well as the traditional immigration countries, United States, Australia and Canada, which still admit many migrants with skills in the middle ranges, though not necessarily on the basis of skills alone but for family reunification.
It is important, however, to point out that labour importing countries are not necessarily limited to those which are facing labour shortages or those with small population. Many developing countries have also become importers of labour well before they reach the level of full employment. This situation arises if the wage level in the developing country becomes higher than that of its neighbouring countries. This results in the inflow of labour, in many cases illegal, mainly from its surrounding countries where wage rates are lower, well before it has exhausted its own supply of underemployed or unemployed labour. Many developing countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa find themselves in such a situation.
There are also an increasing number of developing countries which find themselves in the situation of being both an importer and exporter of labour, well before they reach the “Lewisian turning point” of having exhausted their supplies of surplus labour.
Labour Flows in the APEC Region5 In examining labour flows in the APEC region it is convenient to divide its different member economies into three broad categories. The first This section relies extensively on Stalker (1994) and in parts Amjad (1992).
18 The Lahore Journal of Economics, Vol.1, No.1 are the major destination economies for permanent migration, namely the United States, Canada and Australia to which we can add New Zealand, but keeping in mind that the United States also allows in large number of temporary migrants, mainly from Mexico, and that the distinction between permanent and temporary migration is becoming increasingly blurred. The second category includes economies which are dominated by intra-Asian flows of migrant workers. These can be further sub-divided into those fast growing economies which resulted in labour shortages and recourse to foreign workers, i.e., Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan/China, Hong Kong and Singapore and the emerging NIEs which are both importers and exporters of labour, namely Malaysia and Thailand and the major labour exporters in the region, namely the Philippines, Indonesia and the People’s Republic of China. Also covered here are Brunei Darussalam and Papua New Guinea, although they clearly have their own distinct labour market needs.
The third category covers labour movements within Latin America and the Caribbean. Although, Mexico and Chile are at present the only APEC members in this category, a brief description of dominant labour movements in Latin American countries is included to give a feel for the dynamic labour flows in this region, from which many economies may join APEC in the future.
As regards the flows of professional, management and higher skilled migrants which cover all economies, whether developed or developing, and whose number though small in elation to total migration flows is significant and increasing rapidly within the APEC region, this is dealt with separately in the next section.
(i) The Major Economies of Permanent Settlement Starting in the 1960s far reaching changes introduced in their immigration policies had a major impact on the ethnic composition of immigrants to the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A significant proportion of those who now joined the migration stream to these countries were from the Asia-Pacific rim and mainly from APEC member economies.
The United States receives more immigrants than any other country – indeed almost more than all other countries put together. Total legal registered migration to the United States, according to Simon (1989), was
2.5 million between 1951-60, about 3.3 million during 1961-70, about 4.5 million during 1971-80 and 7.3 million during 1981-90. Of the 7.3 million migrants that came to the USA during 1981-90, three-fourth were from Latin America and Asia and nearly 3.2 million or about 45 per cent were from APEC economies.
Rashid Amjad 19 To form an idea of the arrivals from the APEC economies into the United States in 1992 for example of the 973,977 immigrants admitted, 364,639 or 37.4 per cent were from the APEC economies (Table-2). Of these, the major sending economies were Mexico (213,802), the Philippines (61,022), People’s Republic of China (38,907), Republic of Korea (19,359).
Taiwan/China (16,344) and Canada (15,205). Another 77,735 came from Viet Nam, and 26,191 from E1 Salvador on the Asia-Pacific rim. It is estimated that in 1990 of the total population of the USA of about 248.7 million, about 4.7 per cent or 11.6 million were of Mexican descent (Stalker, 1994, Table 11.2). Saith (1996) estimated that there are about 1.6 million Filipinos residing permanently in the USA in 1993 (p. 28).
In Canada, the other major destination of migrants from the AsiaPacific region, immigration has generally been more closely regulated than that to the United States. As in the United States significant changes were made in its immigration policy which lowered racial and ethnic barriers and removed almost all privileges reserved for European immigrants. According to Richmond (1991) of a total labour force of 11.9 million about 20 per cent were immigrants. During 1980-89) about 1.26 million immigrants landed in Canada of whom about 41 per cent were from countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Of the total 248,200 immigrants who entered Canada in 1992, the largest number came from Hong Kong (15.3 and 11.4). Those from the other APEC economies included the People’s Republic of China (4.1 per cent), Taiwan/China and the United States (2.9 per cent each). The large number coming in from Hong Kong in recent years have been mainly investors and entrepreneurs looking for a safe area of settlement in advance of the reversion of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of china. In many cases, the investors move some of their households to Canada but still commute backwards and forwards to Hong Kong – a high-flying lifestyle which has caused them to be dubbed “astronauts” (Stalker, 1994, p. 179).
Australia, the third largest of the traditional countries of settlement, till the late 1960s with very few exceptions restricted immigration to Europeans only. This position was slightly altered in the 1960s when, in response mainly to sustained criticism by some Asian countries, the Australian Government admitted for permanent settlement a small number of highly qualified and professional workers from Asian countries. However, by the early 1970s the so-called “White Australia” policy was drastically changed, if not all but abolished. According to Appleyard (1988) this included the rapid increase in trade between Australia and Asian countries after the United Kingdom joined the EEC. Also following the Viet Nam war, there was increasing awareness that Australia’s future, given its proximity to 20 The Lahore Journal of Economics, Vol.1, No.1 Asia, was closely linked to the socio-economic changes which took place in this region.