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Chapter 5: Future research and policy development agenda.

Most GMS governments share similar interests in better managing migration to promote their countries' development. The common priorities of Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Yunnan over the coming years are: (i) to adapt and implement existing bilateral agreements on labor exchanges, while adjusting their relevant immigration and labor laws, (ii) to better understand the roles of migration in national development and how it can be facilitated, and (iii) to continue fighting against human trafficking.

During a February 2006 workshop on regional policy formation for trans-border migration held in Khon Kaen, GMS governments presented their need for continued analytical and policy support in: (i) better measuring and understanding the extent of domestic and international migration and the situation of their national workers abroad, (ii) analyzing the social and economic impacts of migration, (iii) building a national capacity for the formulation and implementation of migration policies; and (iv) developing an active collaboration with other GMS governments on labor migration.

As the main receiving country, Thailand also has as a priority to (i) document the number of migrant workers, (ii) speed up the coverage of labor protection laws and access to social services, and (iii) establish a permanent system to manage labor migration.

These government priorities set the context for the development of Phase II of the GMS Labor Migration Program. While Phase I focused mainly on stocktaking and research, Phase II will look more towards supporting policy development and implementation.

5.1 Possible directions for Phase II of the GMS Program

Regional governments have made significant strides towards defining a broad policy approach to migration management in the GMS. However, much remains to be done in terms of refining, designing, implementing and evaluating these policies.

There is a continued need for support on the advocacy front--analysis and evidence on the economic contribution and welfare of migrants are needed to help garner and sustain support for these policies, especially among those agencies/sectors concerned with security issues, and among employers.

There are also large data and analysis gaps that need to be filled to support the implementation and evaluation of policies. For example, further analysis is needed to determine the right level of registration fees and costs so as to not deter workers and employers from registering. More work is also needed to determine whether any type of compensatory mechanisms should be put in place to protect unskilled Thais who may suffer the consequences of competition from migrant labor Other issues that lend themselves to further analysis include: how to secure access to social services for migrants and their families in an efficient, equitable and financially sustainable way; how to improve access to banking services for migrants; and how to reduce the cost of remittances.

There is a need to monitor and evaluate the impact of new policies as they are rolled out: a prime candidate for evaluation is the new job recruitment system for Lao and Cambodia.

Finally, there is a need to build regional capacity to develop, enforce and implement these policies, especially in the lower income countries.

With this in mind, we see three main priorities for the GMS Labor Migration program in the next phase:

* Working with national statistical agencies to improve the collection of migration statistics in existing surveys and instruments. This would involve working out a better sampling frame for the Census and existing household surveys to better capture migrant households, as well as including additional questions in existing surveys that can help better understand and assess their living and working conditions.

* Working with Government agencies and counterparts to help evaluate policy and policy changes. Serious evaluation of the effects of registration and of changes in the registration system could help improve policies in the future. Examples of policies that lend themselves to evaluation include: effectiveness of the new planned job recruitment system; policies to improve migrant access to banking services and lower remittance costs; policies to speed up the time between employer identification of a 'demand' for a migrant worker and the filling of the vacancy etc.

* Helping poorer countries in the sub-region build the institutional infrastructure and local capacity needed to successfully implement the planned job recruitment system. Technical assistance, designed in collaboration with other international partners/agencies, could help strengthen the capacity of the lower income countries to implement their part of the MOU agreements.

5.2 Working with national agencies to improve the collection of migration statistics

As discussed previously, migrant households are poorly represented in the sampling frame of existing household surveys in Thailand. There are many reasons for this but the most important is the poor coverage of migrants in the National Population and Housing Census, which is used for the sampling frame for all household surveys carried out by the National Statistical Office (NSO). In principle, foreign nationals residing in Thailand are covered by the Census regardless of their nationality or legal status. However given language and cultural barriers, difficulty of accessing remote areas, and the higher mobility of migrants, only a minority of them are presently captured in Census data.

In response to a growing demand from the Thai Government to gain more information about the socioeconomic makeup of labor migrants, NSO plans to carry out a series of pilot censuses, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, to test existing methods for capturing migrant populations and identifying new ones. Some of the activities that are envisioned would include:

* Developing appropriate survey techniques to assist enumerators in capturing the migrant population (particularly from Myanmar Lao PDR and Cambodia) during the Census.

* Developing and testing mechanisms for identifying migrant residences.

* Establish a training program for the census team and a training of trainers program.

* Implementing two pilot censuses in two provinces.

* Developing and implementing a public awareness and education campaign on the 2010 Census targeting migrant communities.

NSO and IOM have approached the Bank GMS migration team for support in this area.

In addition to improving the Population Census of Thailand, other efforts to improve the existing data on migrants could include:

* Adding questions on working conditions of migrants to the existing Labor Force Surveys and the Socio-Economic Surveys of Thailand;

* Adding questions on frequency, size, origin, and use of remittances to the main socio-economic surveys regularly conducted in the each GMS country (e.g. LSMS, SES etc.);

* Adding questions on migrants to existing surveys on utilization of health and education facilities in Thailand.

* Revising the sampling frame for existing household surveys in Thailand on the basis of the new pilot Censuses.

* Support a new, specialized migration survey.

5.3 Working with government counterparts to support national policy development

As new policies towards migrants are rolled out, their impact and effectiveness need to be monitored carefully, and their design revised as needed. The phased roll-out planned for some aspects of the new recruitment process could allow for such pilot evaluations to be set up. These evaluation exercises can then provide essential feedback that can be used to revise and redefine core parameters of the new policies.

Some aspects of the new registration and recruitment policies need to be piloted and tested before their design can be fully finalized. For example, a careful evaluation and assessment to the potential disincentive effects on registration of the new fees could help determine the level at which they should be set. If there is geographical variation in the level of registration fees, or in their enforcement, or if there are differences across regions/localities in the timing/introduction of the new fees, this variation could be used to estimate the responsiveness of employers and migrants to the different fee levels.

Careful monitoring of the effectiveness of the new job recruitment scheme (looking at measures such as length of time it takes between the identification of a demand for a migrant worker, the permit being issued and the position being filled) could help assess whether it is achieving its stated objective of facilitating legal migration and addressing employers needs.

Similarly, the establishment of a 'forced savings' mechanism as an incentive for temporary migrants to return to their countries of origin needs to be evaluated more carefully before it is implemented. Lessons from other countries may be brought to bear and a range of option piloted before the scheme is fully implemented.

Policies aimed at ensuring access by migrants to basic social services and basic labor rights, as laid out in the MOUs, also need to be monitored and assessed carefully, to ensure that they are being met. At the same time, it may be necessary to study what compliance with these rights means for service providers in migrant-intensive areas (such as district hospitals and health centers near the border) and to assess whether the need to service migrant populations is having an impact on services delivered to others.

Other policies which are not currently part of the MOUs but which would benefit from careful assessment and evaluation would include those aimed at the families of migrants. While contracts consider workers as individuals, migrants often have dependents, either with them, or in their countries of origin. In receiving countries, critical policy issues for migrant families include the registration and rights of dependents, including work permits for spouse; the recognition of marriages, divorces, and births; access to health and education services for families of migrants; family re-unification for long term migrants; legal protection, and social and cultural integration in the host society. In countries of origin, two priority policy issues are the problems of legal recognition of children born abroad and issues related to facilitating the return of migrants to the home country, including those who may have been disabled or are sick.

5.4 Working with GMS governments to build institutional capacity

The implementation of the planned registration and regularization system, and the development of formal labor exchange system between Thailand and its neighbors depend critically on the sending countries being able to implement their part of the agreement.

Under the MOUs, the sending governments will be responsible for issuing CIs, and for setting up an efficient system of information exchange and private recruitment. All three countries, however have limited technical and administrative capacities to do so. Lao PDR and Cambodia are already issuing CIs to all registered migrants in Thailand that are Cambodian or Lao citizens, but are unlikely to meet the 2006 deadline. While Myanmar agreed in mid-2006 to begin issuing CIs at 3 border posts, the Government will miss the 2006 completion deadline set in the 2003 signed MOU.

There may be scope for the World Bank to provide technical assistance support in this area to the governments of Cambodia and Lao PDR, in collaboration with other regional agencies and development par tners.

The Bank team will use the dissemination of this synthesis report to engage with regional government agencies in a broad discussion of migration policies and policy priorities in the GMS, so as to identify the areas in which further Bank-supported research, analysis and/or technical assistance would be most helpful. A concrete work-plan for Phase II of the program will be developed on the basis of those discussions.

Annex I

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Title Annotation:LABOR MIGRATION in the Greater Mekong Sub-region
Publication:Labor Migration In the Greater Mekong Sub-Region - Synthesis Report: Phase 1
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Previous Article:Chapter 4: Evolution of migration-management policies in the GMS.
Next Article:References.

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