Social Exclusion/ Inclusion​


Despite migrants’ contributions to the economy and cultural fabric of the countries where they reside, governments of many destination countries in Asia continue to formulate law and policy that perpetuate the social exclusion of migrant workers. 

They are usually based on the notion that migration is a purely temporary phenomenon, which has resulted in regulations governing labour migration that are typically ad hoc in nature, exclude any prospect of family unification, restrict migrants to “unskilled” sectors, and preclude any possibility of acquiring a permanent residence or naturalising as citizens. These migration policies contribute to the social exclusion of migrants by trapping them in a “spiral of disadvantage”, where they are forced to live a precarious existence, vulnerable to labour exploitation and at perpetual risk of removal.


Myanmar Migrant workers on their day off in Singapore. (Photo: MMN/Trang Hoang)

MMN believes that significant policy and practice changes are needed to transform migrants’ experiences of social exclusion into experiences of social inclusion. These changes are urgently needed as we move to a more integrated region where the work and lives of all people are appreciated, valued, and considered equal with nationals, and where all are able to lead fulfilling lives within communities.

Over the years, MMN has brought together various stakeholders, including migrant workers, policymakers, and rights advocates, to jointly explore the concepts of multicultural values, diversity, and social inclusion. As part of an effort to engage the public on these themes, MMN has also produced lesson plans and books for school-age children to promote social inclusion, as well as hosting photo exhibitions and creating a multimedia presentation to document migrants’ experiences when they are abroad and upon returning home. Based on research on existing policies in destination countries and countries of origin, we advocate with policymakers to develop measures that recognise and treat migrants as a legitimate part of society.

Related Initiatives

In November 2015, MMN commenced a project entitled, Beyond ‘Tolerance’: Working Hand-in-Hand to Promote the Social Inclusion of Migrants and their Families, supported by the Toyota Foundation. The project was part of MMN’s long-term efforts to promote social cohesion in the region. Beyond ‘Tolerance’ aimed to promote social integration and tackle the issue of social exclusion of migrants in the context of origin countries, Cambodia and Myanmar, as well as destination countries, Thailand and Japan…

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MMN and partners have noted in our work with migrants that any mention of integration in the Mekong and ASEAN region generally referred purely to regional economic integration and rarely to social integration. Migrants have moved to find work, form communities, and develop their social and cultural lives. However, they have often faced barriers and challenges in seeking to fully live and not only survive in the country of destination. There has been little support made available to facilitate the social integration of peoples in the region. 

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In 2013, despite increased discussion among governments and civil society organisations on labour migration issues in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), limited evidence was available of the comprehensive and long-term vision necessary to achieve social cohesion between host communities and migrant communities in the region. MMN therefore deemed it timely to discuss the concept of ‘living together’ and how best to advocate for this…

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The idea for From our Eyes: Migrant Reflection was born at the workshop on Migration Trends and Responses in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and Beyond,  held on 31 August 2010 in Chiang Mai, and co-organised by MMN, MAP Foundation, and the Asian Migrant Centre…

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Resource Hub

Documentary: Beyond Tolerance

Watch this MMN multimedia presentation of migrant workers speaking about their experiences.

Speaking of Migration Online Tool

You will be redirected to our Speaking of Migration online tool webpage developed in 2011, which contains explanations of key terms related to migration as well as terms to avoid.