Roles of Countries of Origin: Phase Two

Between 2018 and 2019, MMN launched the second phase of the Roles of Countries of Origin project, which built on the successful completion of the project’s first phase. The second phase of the project focused on the roles played by countries of origin in enabling their citizens to benefit from social protection schemes while abroad and upon return. MMN has been increasingly aware through its ongoing work with migrant communities of the obstacles encountered by migrants enrolling in overseas social security schemes and issues impeding the receipt of benefits owed to them upon return. MMN takes the view that greater attention needs to be devoted to this aspect of the labour migration system. While much of the discourse on migration governance in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) centres on formalising the migration process, a specific focus on facilitating migrants’ access to social protection is needed to enhance the benefits that regularised migration can bring. 

Furthermore, in light of the growing trend in migration from Mekong countries to destination countries beyond the GMS and the evident gap in knowledge and limited support systems for migrants in these countries, the scope of the second phase of the project was expanded to investigate roles of countries of origin in protecting migrants in the following migration corridors:

  • Cambodia, Myanmar, and Lao PDR to Thailand;
  • Myanmar to Singapore;
  • Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam to Japan;
  • Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam to Malaysia; and
  • Cambodia and Myanmar to Hong Kong.

Project Partners and Resource Persons

  • Cambodian Women Crisis Centre, Cambodia; 
  • Legal Support for Children and Women, Cambodia; 
  • MAP Foundation, Thailand; Foundation for Education and Development, Thailand; 
  • Future Light Centre, Myanmar; WE Generation, Myanmar; 
  • Southern Institute of Social Science, Vietnam;
  • Ms Jackie Pollock, International Labour Organization, Yangon, Myanmar;
  • Mr John Gee, Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore;
  • Professor Wako Asato, Kyoto University, Japan; and
  • Mr Bent Gerht, Worker Rights Consortium, resource person for Malaysia.

Key Activities

In collaboration with MMN project partners and resource persons, MMN launched a research project on the role of Mekong countries of origin in improving accesses to social protection programmes both at home and overseas. For the purpose of this research, MMN held four consultation meetings with local civil society organisations (CSOs) based in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam to collectively design research strategies, analyse collected data, and share knowledge on migration governance and social protection systems in respective countries of origin. Based on the agreed research parameters, project partners collected case studies by way of interviewing migrant workers and migrant returnees from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam who have worked in Thailand and Japan. In addition, MMN’s research team conducted desk research on migration governance in targeted countries of origin, and key informant interviews with various stakeholders including representatives of relevant government ministries, recruitment agencies and agency associations, local CSOs, and international organisations. 

The resulting study, Social Protection Across Borders: Roles of Mekong Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants’ Rightswas published in 2019 and scrutinises the ways in which governments and other stakeholders from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam safeguard the social protection rights of their nationals, both when migrating abroad and upon return. The country specific chapters that form the bulk of this study provides detailed analysis of the various law and policy frameworks currently in place, highlights policy gaps, and illustrates how these play out in real life through case studies of workers who have migrated to Thailand and Japan.

In light of the growing trend of migrants from Mekong countries of origin travelling to Japan for work, MMN organised a series of multi-stakeholder workshops to build knowledge on Japan’s evolving policies regarding the admittance of migrant workers and to discuss strategies and interventions to better support migrant workers throughout the migration cycle. Invitees included representatives of government ministries, Japanese embassies, recruitment agencies, CSOs, and inter-governmental organisations. The workshops were organised in CambodiaMyanmarJapan and Vietnam, in October 2018, February 2019, July 2019 and July 2019 respectively. Proceedings of the four workshops are available under the Publications section, below.

Aiming to better understand the experiences of migrant workers in destination countries and build knowledge on the migration governance policies and systems concerning migrants from the GMS, MMN conducted country visits to Singapore and Japan. In November 2018, MMN and representatives of Future Light Centre, Myanmar, and Foundation for Education and Development, Thailand, visited Singapore to meet with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a migrant-support organisation Singapore, to discuss the challenges faced by domestic workers from Myanmar. TWC2 coordinated a visit to a Myanmar migrant community in Singapore, during which MMN members had the opportunity to learn about migrants’ conditions and gather opinions on what roles the Myanmar government should play in supporting their nationals abroad, please read the website report.

In July 2019, MMN visited Tokyo, Japan, and had separate meetings with the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization, Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan, and the Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan, and paid a home visit to Cambodian migrant workers to deepen their understanding of the Technical Internship Training Program and migrants’ conditions under the programme. These meetings provided valuable opportunities for the MMN research team to meet stakeholders and exchange and update information on the deployment of migrant workers to Japan. To learn more about the country visit to Japan, please read the website report.

From 16-17 September, MMN organised the Second Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. More than 40 representatives from governments; CSOs; recruitment agencies’ associations from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam; the embassies of the Republic of the Philippines and Japan in Phnom Penh; and inter-governmental organisations gathered to hear research findings from the publication, Social Protection Across Borders: Roles of Mekong Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants’ Rights, and discuss how countries of origin can expand their role in enhancing migrants’ access to social protection across borders. The policy dialogue took place in tandem with a Labour Ministerial Conference held on 17 September in Siem Reap between the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, aimed at creating a joint framework on the portability of social security for migrant workers in Mekong countries. To learn more about the second policy dialogue, please read the press releasewebsite report, and proceedings of the Second Policy Dialogue.

Media Coverage


Further Reading

Recommendations for governments and recruitment agencies

Read MMN recommendations for governments and recruitment agencies in Mekong countries of origin

Migration Corridors

Read about the migration corridors from countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion to select destinations within and beyond the region.

Impacts of Migration Ban on Myanmar Domestic Workers

Read about how bans imposed by countries of origin on migration to specific destination countries can affect the rights of migrant workers.

Countries of Origin Profiles

Read about the initiatives of governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam in protecting migrant workers.

Interviews of Prospective Migrant Workers from Mekong Countries Bound for Japan

Watch this interview of prospective migrants from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam discussing their expectations and aspirations for work in Japan.

Social Protection Programmes in Countries of Origin

Read about existing social security systems applicable to migrants in countries of origin in the region.

Social Protection Applicable to Migrants in Destination Countries

Read about the various types of social protection programmes that are applicable to migrant workers in Thailand, Japan, and Singapore.