Facilitating Safe Labor Migration in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Publication | April 2013

This report highlights issues on labor migration in the GMS and offers recommendations toward increasing social protection for migrants, strengthening capacity and legal framework, and enhancing knowledge management mechanisms.

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Migration within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) can be categorized as international migration, internal migration, and border mobility. Labor migration in the GMS is widespread and concerns at least 3 to 5 million workers.

International, bilateral, and national legislation provide the legal framework for addressing migration issues. However, gaps still exist, cooperation could be enhanced, and governance issues still slow the process down.

The main issues related to labor migration in the GMS are the following:

  • Readiness for economic integration in the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Economic Community (AEC). The transition toward a knowledge-based economy needs mechanisms to recognize the emerging skills and an environment attractive to highly skilled migrants;
  • Regularization of migration. Irregular migration should be curbed by creating an environment in which regularization is sustainable to migrants;
  • Migrant workers' rights. Rights and protection of migrant workers are not yet ensured, even if laws that address regular migrants exist. This is part of the environment that makes regular migration non-sustainable for migrants;
  • Migration of women and children. The feminization of migration should be mainstreamed into migration policies to protect women and children; and
  • Data availability. Knowledge on labor migration is sorely lacking. Research should be encouraged through both quantitative and qualitative surveys for greater understanding of how migration works within the subregion.


Regarding migration within the GMS, recommendations emerging from this paper include the following:

  • Increase protection mechanisms for migrants in cross-border settings;
  • Strengthen capacity and legal framework in managing labor migration;
  • Enhance social protection for migrants and their families;
  • Promote ethical recruitment and employment;
  • Strengthen return and reintegration support to migrants;
  • Increase knowledge management mechanisms; and
  • Promote effective use of remittances.


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Stock, Flows, and Patterns
  • Issues
  • Partnerships and Legal Framework of Migration in the GMS
  • Recommendations and Ideas Toward Strengthening Subregional Approaches
  • References

Additional Details

  • Regional cooperation and integration
  • Social development and protection
  • Migration, trafficking, and human mobility
  • Social protection - labor and employment
  • Cambodia
  • China, People's Republic of
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Myanmar
  • Thailand
  • Viet Nam
  • RPT135586-2
  • 978-92-9254-020-3 (Print)
  • 978-92-9254-021-0 (Web)

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