Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where do foreign citizens live in the EU?

The Romanian Press Agency article has an eye-catching article, "Romania leads top emigration countries in EU".

The largest groups came from Romania with 1.7million emigrants, namely 15% of total number of foreign citizens from another EU Member State. Romania is followed by Italy with 1.3 million emigrants or 11%, and Poland with 1.2 million citizens or 11%. Among the citizens of countries outside the European Union, the largest groups were from Turkey (2.4 million), Morocco (1.7 million), and Albania (1 million). According to Eurostat, the highest percentage of Romanian citizens in the population was found in Spain (734,800), Italy (625,300) and Hungary (65,000).

This is the Eurostat press release that the article refers to. Some of the patterns revealed are quite interesting, for instance the distribution of the foreign-born--while biased towards the large EU countries in absolute numbers--follows certain traces.

In 2008, the largest numbers of foreign citizens were recorded in Germany (7.3 million persons), Spain (5.3 million), the United Kingdom (4.0 million), France (3.7 million) and Italy (3.4 million). More than 75% of the foreign citizens in the EU27 lived in these Member States.

Among the EU27 Member States, the highest percentage of foreign citizens in the population was found in Luxembourg (43% of the total population), followed by Latvia (18%), Estonia (17%), Cyprus (16%), Ireland (13%), Spain (12%) and Austria (10%). The percentage of foreign citizens was less than 1% in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

In a detailed breakdown of the top three foreign nationalities in all but three European Union member-states, the report shows the consequences of historic migrations, like the Soviet-era flows to Latvia and Lithuania, the historically massive Italian flows to France and Belgium and the Portuguese movements to France and Switzerland and Luxembourg, the domination of migration to Portugal by Lusophones and migration to Finland from its neighbouring countries, down to the most recent movements like that of Ukrainians to the Czech Republic and Albanians to Greece and, of course, the Romanians to Spain and Portugal.

Some of the statistics are likely off, mind, not indicating the size of the migrations owing to the naturalization of the immigrants and the assimilation of their second- and third-generation descendants, and the extent to which this is even possible. In a Romania with relatively few foreign citizens present, "the largest group of foreign citizens came from Moldova (5,500), Turkey (2,200) and China (1,900)," but exceptionally liberal citizenship policy for Moldovans based on Romanian policy that Moldovans are Romanians, too, with upwards of a million applicants.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On how migrants from Sichuan will help complicate China's economic growth

The first I heard about the large-scale migration from the Chinese interior province of Sichuan to richer areas on the Chinese coast came with last year's earthquake, when Reuters covered? Sichuanese migrant workers in Beijing concerned about their homes.

Ye Shao did not feel a thing when China's most ruinous earthquake in decades struck in her home province of Sichuan on Monday, sending shockwaves that panicked residents from Shanghai to Bangkok.

"I was delivering vegetables at the time, but I thought it strange that all these people were running out of buildings on to the street," Ye said.

Four agonising hours later, Ye thanked heaven her parents, who live about 100 km from the epicentre at Sichuan's Wenchuan county, were outdoors when the quake hit.

"They are now living in tents in an open field. Our family home is ruined. Of course, I'm worried for them, because I've heard there may be more aftershocks," said Ye.

As state media reported on Thursday that the death toll from the 7.9 magnitude quake could rise to more than 50,000, Sichuan migrant workers in Beijing talked gloomily of broken homes, dead neighbours and fears for relatives living in desperation.

Forming a large part of China's 150 million surplus rural workers, whose cheap labour has fuelled blistering economic growth, millions of Sichuanese have migrated more than 1,000 miles to work in booming cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Many have left spouses and children in poor villages at home in a bid to better their prospects.

UNESCAP noted in its summary of Sichuan's demography that, despite economic improvements, the province was still fairly poor, with a high population density in usable lands and relatively low standards of education even as China's reforms have made peasant life more difficult, especially but notn only for women, and with Sichuan's mountainous areas suffering especially high levels of poverty (though these latter tend to migrate within Sichuan). Notwithstanding an exceptionally rapid demographic transition over the 1980s despite some problematic statistics, Sichuan like other provinces of the Chinese interior had a large labour surplus.

Where do these people go? They head to the richer parts of China where they have a huge impact on the country as a whole, on areas in Sichuan receiving remittances as on the migrant-receiving areas themselves, where Sichuanese and other migrants formed the majority of the labour force in some sectors of the southeast Chinese economy. Irena Omelaniuk observed in 2004 that provinces like Sichuan which produce the bulk of China's internal migrants produce relatively few international migrants, Sichuanese migrants instead moving to provinces like Fujian and Zhejiang which are themselves disproportionately important sources of China's international migrants, as caught in passing in this Slate article. In a very real sense, Sichuanese and other migrants fill the employment and other gaps left by international migrants and then some.

What consequences will this have? It may be worth noting that China's regional languages are probably going to be doomed. These migrations of Putonghua-speakers, combined with state education and services in that languages, is marginalizing regional langauges like Shanghainese and Cantonese, in overseas Chinese communities and certainly in China itself: by the time that people concerned for Cantonese's future are complaining about this in Putonghua, you know that the language's future is grim. If, as I blogged back in July, the cohort fertility of Shanghai's native population is dramatically below replacement and migration is the only thing that will ensure the city's population growth, the odds that Shanghai will switch over to the national language are that much higher.

Just as importantly, thse migrants from Sichuan (and other poorer areas within China will help keep the Chinese economic model going for a bit longer. Edward observed back in 2007 that rural China was quickly heading down the route of sub-replacement fertility, while Claus noted back in 2008 that rising expectations and shrinking migrant flows were creating labour shortages in some industries. China may, as the recent Economist article suggests, be able to continue shifting labour from its poor rural areas to the cities, a relatively more educated and urbanized workforce shifting to value-added products as this IIASA projection suggests.

First of all, China is expected to become a “world factory” with rapid growth of manufacturing enterprises in global production network, due to its cheaper labor cost, easier access to regional markets and increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) after China’s accession to WTO (C. Gu, 1999; D. Webster, 2002). The manufacturing enterprises usually are labor-intensive and require large amount of workers with a relative low education level and skills which new rural-urban migrants can fit in. Secondly, the tertiary industry in cities and towns has great development potentials. Currently, the tertiary industry in Chinese cities and towns is rather backward and less developed. With increasing income and living standards, the demand on services will rise strongly. Thirdly, urbanization as a process creates economic growth. It has been observed everywhere that per capita income is higher in cities that in rural areas. The reason is simply that productivity is higher in cities. This is true not only of labor productivity, but also of capital productivity, and even for infrastructure productivity. By moving labor and capital from lower to higher productivity areas, it automatically increases average productivity (P. H. Remy, 2000) (56-57).

As Scott notes it may as easily throttle China's prospects, forcing it to depend still more heavily on exports to support its rapidly aging population as it fails to increase its productivity as quickly as one might want and its aging population becoming net consumers instead of net savers.

The situation will be severe in the rich provinces of the south and east. What, I wonder, will things be like in the poor centre, west, and north of China, places which haven't prospered nearly as much as the favoured coastal regions and which are net senders of migrants in the bargain? In a decade's time, observers may be talking about the hollowing-out of Sichuan and its neighbours, with obvious consequences on China's internal divisions and stability.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A US outlook on China's demographic prospects

I will chime in following suit to Edward's discussion of China's prospects with some details from the US Census Bureau's analysis of China’s demographic future. Some excerpts are:

China’s population is projected to peak at slightly less than 1.4 billion in 2026, both earlier and at a lower level than previously projected…The latest projections indicate that by 2026, the population of China will begin to decline. Population growth in China, the world’s most populous country, is slowing and currently stands at 0.5 percent annually. China surpassed the 1.2 billion population mark in 1994 and reached 1.3 billion in 2006…The slowdown in China’s population growth is the result of declining fertility. China’s total fertility rate is estimated to have been 2.2 in 1990, 1.8 in 1995 and less than 1.6 since 2000. China’s fertility rate is currently half a birth below that of the United States, which is more than two births per woman.

Key evidence for the new fertility estimates comes from analysis of data from China’s recent census and surveys. One of the consequences to China’s declining fertility rate is that the number of new entrants to China’s labor force may be near its peak. The population ages 20-24 is projected to peak at 124 million in 2010…Despite a shrinking younger population, China’s labor force may continue to grow for several years since the population ages 20 to 59 (prime working ages) is not expected to peak until 2016 at 831 million, an increase of 24 million from the current estimated level.”

I highlighted several particularly notable statements. The concept that China’s labor force may peak in only six years at a level only 24 million persons greater than current should lead to careful reconsideration of several themes that have been conventional wisdom regarding China. These are the idea of the (practically) limitless labor pool, the idea that economic growth in China can continue to rapidly increase, and the idea that opportunities for market growth in China and outsourcing opportunities to China will increase for the foreseeable future.

If the size of China’s labor force is in fact near its peak then by definition domestic consumption will have to increase some time as those that leave the workforce due to age will be net consumers rather than savers. This could make China even more export-dependent, which is hard to imagine. Michael Pettis makes a solid case that domestic consumption in China has been shrinking in recent years as a share of GDP due to government economic policy.

A shrinking labor force will also make it difficult for China to maintain GDP growth rates. Michael Pettis in another analysis makes an interesting case that China may not be able to increase the productivity of its workforce as rapidly as many think. Since the textbook response to the problem of maintaining growth with a smaller workforce is to increase productivity, this could be a difficult problem. The burden of supporting the rapidly increasing population of non workers will last until the Chinese population as a whole starts to decline.

Friday, December 25, 2009

China's Looming Demographic Problem Moves Steadily Up Over The Radar

As Israeli blogger "Nobody" points out for us,the Economist has been giving increasing coverage to global demographic issues of late, and this week it is China's problem that has caught their eye.

As the Economist point out, the impact of so many years of one child per family policy is going to be significant, and while changing it now will be too late to avoid short term damage, in the longer term such a change is essential, if the country ever wants to return to some kind of structural stability.

SINCE the 1970s China’s birth rate has plummeted while the number of elderly people has risen only gradually. As a result its “dependency ratio”—the proportion of dependents to people at work—is low. This has helped to fuel China’s prodigious growth. But this “demographic dividend” will peak in 2010. China’s one-child policy will keep birth rates low, but as life expectancy continues to increase, so will the dependency ratio, reducing the country’s potential for growth. The government could yet salvage the situation by loosening its one-child policy. More children would increase the dependency ratio until they were old enough to join the workforce, but reduce labour shortages in the long term.

Again, no one really knows what the present Chinese TFR actually is. The US census bureau have just revised down their estimate to 1.5 from 1.8, but many internal studies put it at nearer 1.3, which, if accurate, is bound to produce a major structural distortion in the population pyramid. The economic consequences - for the whole planet - are also bound to be significant, as "Nobody" points out:

Meanwhile, given the general propensity of China to rapid economic growth and no less dramatic deceleration of its population growth (the workforce will stop growing pretty soon actually), the next superpower is about to transform itself into a huge vacuum machine sucking off labor surpluses from around the globe. Inside China labor shortages will develop and wages shoot up pushing labor intensive industries out of China and generating demand for these products from outside China. In short, after a decade or something, the global economy, and even more so the economies of the third world, may get a friendly push forward from the world's next superpower, and a very massive one on that occasion.

What China's demographic deficit has in store for all of us a decade or so from now is actually far from clear, but one thing is certain, it will be a roller coaster ride. Get ready to fasten your seatbelts.


Quite coincidentally, a new blog was born yesterday - the anarchist banker - written by a young Portuguese economist who is a unabashed fan of Fernando Pessoa. His first post reviews a paper - The End of Chimerica - written by Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick.
For the better part of the past decade, the world economy has been dominated by a world economic order that combined Chinese export-led development with US overconsumption. The financial crisis of 2007-2009 likely marks the beginning of the end of the Chimerican relationship. In this paper we look at this era as economic historians, trying to set events in a longer-term perspective. In some ways China's economic model in the decade 1998-2007 was similar to the one adopted by West Germany and Japan after World War II. Trade surpluses with the U.S. played a major role in propelling growth. But there were two key differences. First, the scale of Chinese currency intervention was without precedent, as were the resulting distortions of the world economy. Second, the Chinese have so far resisted the kind of currency appreciation to which West Germany and Japan consented. We conclude that Chimerica cannot persist for much longer in its present form. As in the 1970s, sizeable changes in exchange rates are needed to rebalance the world economy. A continuation of Chimerica at a time of dollar devaluation would give rise to new and dangerous distortions in the global economy.

I would just note in passing that the China-United States nexus was not the only export-lead/excess consumption duet we just left behind, there was the Sweden-Baltics/Ukraine one, the Germany-Southern Europe one, and the Japan-RoW one (rest of the world). As we wave bye-bye to one era, it is just worth noting than we don't seem to have a very clear idea of what the one which lies ahead may look like.

Anyway, thanks to the anarchist banker blogger for drawing this all to our attention. As the author himself admits, posting may be infrequent (anarchic?), but they should always be worth the read.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Malaysia's relatively declining Chinese and South Korea's interracial children

Here's two follow-up posts, each looking at Malaysia's changing ethnic demographics and South Korea's unexpected new melting pot.

  • Over at the Malaysia Insider, Helen Ang examines ("Honey, I Shrunk the Chinese!") the relative decline of Malaysia's Chinese from a plurality to an increasingly small minority. She emphasizes the extent to which emigration from Malaysia has been concentrated among ethnic Chinese, but considers the demographic transition only inasmuch as it reflects the moral decay of younger Malaysian Chinese relative to their elders and their lamentable lack of ethnic versus regional identity.

  • The New York Times' Martin Fackler suggests ("Baby Boom of Mixed Children Tests South Korea") that, owing to discrimination against non-Koreans, language issues, immigrant women's lack of agency, and the concentration of immigrant women in relatively deprived areas and social strata, children born in South Korea to couples of mixed nationality are expected to face a hard time of it despite their country's need for young people.
  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    On Kiribati and climate change and island nation migration

    Kiribati, a collection of very low-lying islands in Micronesia almost absurdly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels has just announced how it intends to make sure its citizens can find refuge: they'll all become professionals.

    In one of the most emotional sessions so far of the Copenhagen climate meeting, officials of the remote atoll nation said Wednesday they are doing everything possible to preserve their low-lying country, which faces inundation and loss of its fresh water to sea level rise.

    They appealed to negotiators and world leaders at Copenhagen to reach an effective new global pact to limit carbon emissions, calling it their last hope of saving their homeland.

    In Kiribati, climate change and sea level rise "are no longer a matter of speculation. They are a reality for our people," said President Anote Tong, in a videotaped address that showed footage of stands of salt-killed palm trees and waves crashing onto highways and lapping into homes.

    But island officials also admitted they are making plans for an eventual "practical and rational" relocation of the atoll's 96,000 people to countries including Australia and New Zealand.

    "We are proud people. We would like to relocate on merit and with dignity," said Tessie Lambourne, Kiribati's foreign secretary.

    Under the plan, islanders are taking advantage of assistance programs in Australia and New Zealand to train young people as nurses and other in-demand professions. The programs allow successful graduates to remain and seek citizenship.

    The hope, Lambourne said, is that the families of immigrants could eventually qualify for immigration as well.

    She said she hoped similar training and migration programs would be established in other Western nations, including the United States, Canada and Japan.

    "The idea is to have pockets of (Kiribati) communities around the world," she said.

    Whether this ambitious plan can be actually realized or not, given the limited financial and other resources of Kiribati, is open to question, although upcoming global skills shortages and workplace shrinking will act in the island nation's favour. While the numbers involved are significantly smaller than, say, the shift of West Africans from the region's interior to the more hospitable coasts that I blogged about in June, the absolute numbers are still significant. Entire countries are vulnerable, nto only to disappearing to to first become uninhabitable.

    Long-term climate change, including the increasing frequency and severity of extreme events such as heat waves, high rainfall intensity events, summer droughts, tropical cyclones, windstorms, storm surges, and El-Nino-like conditions are affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in PICs. Coupled with overexploitation of resources, increasing urbanization and population increase, the compounding effect has caused considerable and widespread damage and threatens development in the region. For the low lying atolls, the likely economic disruption could be catastrophic, even to the extent of requiring population relocation into other islands or adding numbers to the Pacific Diaspora, with the subsequent social and cultural disruption having unknown proportions. Failure to reduce vulnerability could also result in loss of opportunities to manage risks in the future when the impacts may be greater and time to consider options limited.

    Today, roughly 1 million people live on coral islands worldwide, and many more millions live on low-lying real estate vulnerable to the rising waves. At risk are not just people, but unique human cultures, born and bred in watery isolation. Faced with inundation, some of these people are beginning to envision the wholesale abandonment of their nations. These islands could be rendered uninhabitable by other effects of climate change. Floods and rogue waves raise the saltwater table underlying the atolls, poisoning the staple crops of our atoll societies. Already some farmers have been forced to grow their taro in tin containers, and already some of the smaller islands in the atolls have lost their coconut palms to saltwater intrusion.

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    On the Philippines, its demographics, and relative demographic weight

    I've two news articles concerning the demographics of the Philippines I'd like to share with you.

    The first is Maragtas S.V. Amante's ABS-CBN News "Korea – Pinoy mixed marriages and tensions in the multicultural family", which examines the problems facing Filipino women migrating to South Korea to marry local men left without marriage candidates by sex ratios biased strongly agaisnt women. I mentioned in the East Asian context before, most often in relation to South Korea but also in regards to Taiwan. This is the first time I've linked to an article describing the phenomenon from the Filipino side.

    Koreans on their own spend an average of 13 million won ($10,600) in costs for interracial marriages according to the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA). There are 1,044 matchmaking companies in Korea. The most popular country as source of “brides” was Vietnam followed by China. It takes an average of 88 days, or about three months, to complete an interracial marriage through agencies ― from the Korean applicant's departure to interview with his or her prospective spouse and their entry to Korea. Global mixed marriages have a gender and social equity dimension: the male is from a rich country, and the female is from a poor country.

    [. . .]

    Matchmaking agencies contract marriages between Koreans and foreign nationals, including the Philippines. In April 2009, approximately 6,000 Filipinos married to South Koreans reside in the peninsula. Philippine Ambassador to Korea Luis Cruz says however that the Embassy have been regularly warning Filipinos against illegal marriage brokers. A Philippine law, the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law (RA6955), makes it illegal for a "person, natural or juridical, association, club or any other entity" to "establish or carry on a business which has for its purpose the matching of Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction." While international marriage broker agencies are legal in South Korea, they cannot legally operate in the Philippines because it violates RA 6955.

    The Philippine Embassy in Korea has received many complaints by Filipina wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands, both as consequence or cause of abandonment of the home, separation and divorce. These complainants entered into the marriage through the services of illegal marriage brokers operating in the Philippines. Many are quick to accept the whirlwind marriage in order to seek employment abroad and have a better life. However, they receive false information on the partner’s family background and face human rights violations in an unfamiliar home abroad, isolated from the community and society, and no preparation in culture and language.

    [. . .]

    The Philippine Embassy in Korea has received many complaints by Filipina wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands, both as consequence or cause of abandonment of the home, separation and divorce. These complainants entered into the marriage through the services of illegal marriage brokers operating in the Philippines. Many are quick to accept the whirlwind marriage in order to seek employment abroad and have a better life. However, they receive false information on the partner’s family background and face human rights violations in an unfamiliar home abroad, isolated from the community and society, and no preparation in culture and language.

    This movement to newly high-income South Korea and Taiwan is one of the more prominent recent expansions of the Filipino diaspora. There are something on the order of ten Overseas Filipinos out of a national population of some 92 million, including both members of relatively temporary labour diasporas and permanently-settled communities, plays a critical role in their home country's political economy. Wikipedia's population estimates seem broadly accurate, suggesting that there are under three million in the United States that once colonized the archipelago, perhaps two million in the Persian Gulf states with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia, a half-million Filipino Canadians and between two hundred thousand and a quarter-million Filipinos in Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, and Japan. The Philippines' historic links with Spain have faded, replaced by the consequences of the long American involvement in the Philippines and the use of English, with Overseas Filipinos being concentrated firstly in Anglophone countries, secondly in Persian Gulf states with close ties to first the United Kingdom and then the United States, and finally in the Philippines' Southeast and East Asian neighbours. The Filipino Canadian community is widely dispersed throughout Canada, with large numbers dispersed throughout non-first tier cities like the Manitoba capital of Winnipeg.

    The second is a straight-forward demographic projection from the Manila Bulletin, "184 million Pinoys by 2040".

    At the current growth rate, the Philippines’ population may reach 184.4 million by 2040 to place it on 10th place as the most populated country, the Population Commission (PopCom) said Saturday.

    [. . .]

    Currently, the Philippines has a population of 92.2 million and the said figures will eventually double in 31 years to place the country in 10th spot.

    The PopCom official revealed that the country’s population growth rate is 2.04 percent annually but the same could increase further if the government could not implement appropriate measures to significantly reduce the rather high growth rate.

    Even if the country’s growth rate is on a downward trend because of the massive information and education campaign on artificial and natural birth control methods, population experts cited the same would not mean a decrease in the country’s population since the country has a very high incremental rate and lots of children.

    Furthermore, it was discovered that Filipino women have a high fertility rate as a woman gives birth to an average of three children during their fertile years.

    It was also noted that 24 percent of the country’s population falls on the adolescent category and almost 50 percent represent individuals aged 15 years and over, which is an indication of expected high fertility of the women who are expected to give birth to more children in the next several years.

    While the direction and volume of the Filipino diaspora has been conditioned by language and history, it's currently driven by economic factors. Once one of the most developed economies in East Asia after only Japan, thanks to heavy investment in infrastructure and education, the Filipino economy has been marked by relative decline, its substantial economic potential wasted by years of bad policies, not least by Ferdinand Marcos' kleptocracy in the 1970s and 1980s. A consultation of the Penn World Tables reveals that the Philippines has not only been left far behind of South Korea and Taiwan in terms of GDP per capita, but Thailand's GDP per capita has risen from a position below the Philippines to twice the Filipino figure, and Indonesia and even Vietnam have mostly or entirely caught up Possessing substantial amounts of cultural and economic capital, and with strong incentives to leave the country in search for a better life and funds to support families, Filipinos accordingly left in huge numbers. The remittances sent back by this diaspora play a major role in the country: one of the largest remittance-receiving countries in the world, the remittances subsidize living standards. Even as the Philippines moves towards a more stable high-growth path akin to that of many of its Southeast Asian neighbours, the tradition of migration has been established.

    What will happen to the Philippines in the future? I've a few predictions.

  • The relative economic deprivation faced by Filipinos in their homeland and the tradition of migration will continue, notwithstanding any economic growth in the future. Absolute wealth hasn't discouraged emigration, rather relative wealth does, and even if the Philippines catches up to its Southeast Asian neighbours there will still be yawning gaps between the Philippines and high-income countries.

  • High-income East Asia is going to become the next major receiving area for Filipino migrants, after the Anglophone world and the Middle East. The pathways established by Filipino migrants to South Korea and Taiwan can be reasonably expected to grow independently of sex ratio bias, in the context of population aging and workforce shrinkage. Similarly, the numbers of the Filipino community in Japan may be expected to grow if Japan opens its doors to some immigration.

  • The Philippines will enjoy very favourable demographics. With a young and well-educated population located in the middle of a prosperous region with close ties to any number of high-income countries, the Philippines has the potential to catch up economically to its neighbours and maybe even surpass them: the projected rapid aging of Thailand's population won't contribute positively to that country's economic future.

  • Finally, as the second article suggests, the rapid growth of the Philippines' population--called frightening by some, a potential economic opportunity by others--will sharply increase its weight in Southeast Asia and the world. Looking at the medium variant scenarios in the UN's World Population Prospects database, in the 1950-2040 period, Indonesia's population quadrupled (from 77 million) while the Philippines' grew by a factor of seven (from 20 million). Thailand, a nation that also was home to 20 million people in 1950, is going to see its population peak at 73 million in 2040 before slowly shrinking barring unexpected surprises. Even Vietnam, a country home to 27 million in 1950, has just seen its total population figures surpassed by the Philippines. This growth will be even greater relative to high-income East Asia: whereas the number of Filipinos was one-fifth the combined populations of Japan and South Korea, by 2040 the Philippines is expected to arrive on par. More, if Taiwan's population peaks in the area of 20 million, the Philippines' population will come not far short of all of high-income East Asia. (All these are projections, of course, but usefully indicative nonetheless.)

  • Between the previously-mentioned growth of Indonesia as a migrant-sending country and the Philippines, I speak only half in jest when I suggest that the 21st century since the waves of Austronesian-speaking migrants which led to the colonization of points as dispersed as Madagascar and Easter Island.

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    On Indonesia and migration

    The name of Conrad Barwa is probably familiar to at least some of you, since there's some overlap between the readerships of Demography Matters and the sadly hiatused Head Heeb. I'd like to thank him for bringing to my attention a recent article from Time, Mark Scliebs' "Rape and the Plight of the Female Migrant Worker". Indonesian female migrants, sadly, are often subject to sexual abuse.

    No one knows if 1-year-old Yunus will ever see his mother again. Like 6 million other Indonesians, she traveled far from home to find employment. She was hired by a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia. But one day, while on her boss's property, she went to check on some goats and, according to what is known of her tale, was raped by two men. Yunus was conceived of that assault.

    [. . .]

    While globalization has turned much of the world into a wide-open labor market, it has also created complex human and societal dramas. Women account for up to 50% of the world's 100 million–strong migrant-worker population — and there is no effective entity to protect their rights and dignity. In 2008, Indonesians working abroad, commonly as domestic staff in the Middle East and parts of Asia, contributed about $6.8 billion to their national economy via remittances, according to the World Bank. And while statistics are difficult to come by, there are increasing reports of many who are physically abused, raped and — in some cases — killed by their employers.

    While cases of death at the hands of overseas employers are relatively rare, Normawati says she has seen countless pregnant Indonesians coming through the gates of Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport after working abroad. She says the most disturbing of experiences can be heard again and again from the lips of different women: "The boss tells the woman, 'You must be with me.' Then rape."

    [. . .]

    The abuse of Indonesian workers in some countries has become so notorious that Jakarta is considering placing bans on labor migration to specific destinations. Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskander says workers may soon be prevented from entering Saudi Arabia and Jordan if a "thorough review" shows that those governments are providing insufficient protections for Indonesian workers.

    Indonesia is a rising country. A recent Economist country briefing made the point that the country is a success in the post-Suharto era, with stability as a rambunctious democracy, a strong civil society, and a dynamic economy. Recently, Indonesia has been nominated as a potential candidate for BRIC status, as a country with a national population that already significantly exceeds those of Russia and Brazil and a GDP per capita higher than India's. The Goldman Sachs projections behind the BRIC phenomenon do estimate that by 2050, if all goes well, Indonesia's GDP will exceed that of South Korea and all of the G-7 powers save the United States.

    And yet, the country's overlooked. I can only imagine that ignorance about Indonesia stems from lazy assumptions that the country's unstable and a basketcase. The only exception to this I can think of can be found in Australia, where long-standing fears of being invaded, associated with East Timor, and John Marsden's Tomorrow series which sees teenagers fight a guerrilla war against invaders who come from the north, looking for land and resources. All this notwithstanding the exceptional implausibility of such an invasion.

    Science-fictional fears of Indonesians aside, the Indonesian population is becoming very mobile. The form of Indonesian migration most familiar to the interested is the very controversial transmigrasi program that saw the sponsored migration of millions from the central and exceedingly populous islands of Java and Madura to relatively low-density areas in places like Borneo and West Papua. Growing internal migration is also a major phenomenon, with long-term migrant labour and rural-urban commuting. As Indonesia becomes globalized, international migration is becoming a major phenomenon for the first time, as Graeme Hugo observed in 2007 at Migration Information. Migration to OECD countries is notable.

    The largest community of expatriate Indonesia-born people is in the Netherlands, the country's former colonial ruler. An important component is the aging "Moluccan" group that opted to move to the Netherlands when the Dutch recognized Indonesian independence after 1949.

    In 2002, an estimated 137,485 individuals born in Indonesia were living in the Netherlands. There were 264,100 second-generation Indonesians in the Netherlands in 1998, the most recent year for which estimates are available.

    The fastest growing Indonesian communities are in the "new" migration countries, led by the United States and followed by Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

    In Australia, the number of foreign born from Indonesia increased 40 percent between 2001 and 2005. An important component in this movement has been the number of Indonesian-born students (mainly university level) studying in Australia as well as in other OECD nations. Although the student flow peaked in the year of the financial crisis, the number of students has held steady at around 20,000 per year.

    Far more important is the migration of Indonesians into Malaysia, often welcomed because of the ethnic affiliations between Malays and many Indonesian ethnic groups, as often subject to the sort of hostility and mistreatment common to poor workers.

    The largest numbers are in neighboring Malaysia, which has a similar language, culture, and religion. Permanent settlement of Indonesians dates back five centuries, but migration was especially significant during colonial times. According to the 2001 Malaysian census, there were 1.38 million foreign born in the country, more than half of them from Indonesia.

    However, the scale of recent permanent settlement of Indonesians in Malaysia is not known. Significant numbers of unskilled labor migrants settle permanently in Malaysia, but many do not become legal residents as permanent settlement of unskilled Indonesians is opposed.

    The tendency for migrant workers to become permanent or long-term residents has been particularly marked in East Malaysia. The population of the state of Sabah has soared from 697,000 in 1979 to almost 3 million in 2004, and migration from Indonesia and the Philippines) has played a major role in this growth. There are an estimated 100,000 irregular migrants in Sabah and 138,000 in the West Malaysia state of Selangor, the majority of whom are Indonesians.

    The expense and danger of detection at the border has encouraged some migrant workers from eastern Indonesia to settle permanently, or on a long-term basis, in Sabah rather than regularly return to their nearby Indonesian homes. One consequence has been an increase in the number of "stateless" Indonesians who have no status in Malaysia and whose Indonesian passports have expired. Some 35,000 Indonesian passports were issued to such "paperless" citizens in Malaysia in the first four months of 2006.

    With significant smaller numbers of Indonesian migrants in other Southeast Asian countries, the Middle East is the biggest recipient of Indonesian migrants outside of Indonesia's region. And yes, on account of the exclusion of Indonesians from the social contract, conditions are often dire.

    At least 5 thousand Indonesian workers will be repatriated this week from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. This was decided by the government in Jakarta in response to the increasing instances of harassment and ill-treatment of fellow emigrants. Muhaimin Iskandar, Indonesian Minister of Labour, announced that his country intends to suspend the sending of people seeking employment to the three Middle Eastern states.

    In Saudi Arabia alone there are an estimated 600 thousand Indonesian immigrants, 90% of whom are employed as domestic workers, labourers and drivers. Didi Wahyudi, head of the Jakarta consular service to Jeddah, explains that the number of returnees “is limited and represents only 1% of Indonesian workers in the country. But it has become an increasingly significant figure".

    The system that regulates the immigration of workers from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, and all Gulf countries except Bahrain, requires the employer to ensure a visa, usually of two years. This procedure puts the immigrants in a state of total dependence on those who employ them thus exposing them to abuse, exploitation and violence.

    Didi Wahyudi said that the huge market for domestic workers usually attracts foreigners. An immigrant who arrives in Saudi Arabia to work in this sector receives a top salary of 800 rials per month, about 140 Euros, the minimum set by the Regulations. When they discover that foreign workers can earn up to 2 thousand rials they leave their employers, sometimes even before the expiry of two year visa, and chose to stay in the country as illegal immigrants.

    The Saudi newspaper ArabNews says that in the month of September, about a thousand Indonesian immigrants, especially waiters, drivers and unskilled staff, went on trial for illegal residence in the country.

    Indonesia might be a plausible candidate BRIC country, but like the four established BRIC countries it remains poor and continued emigration is certain. The question of how Indonesia is to manage its external migration flows and protect its labour diaspora can be expected to become a major question as these migration flows continue to evolve, the characteristics of the mifrant flows change (will Indonesians fill more highly-skilled jobs?) and identities remain in flux.

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    On migration and justice

    A recent post by Laura Agustin at her blog Border Thinking, "Undocumented migrants, inflexible employment systems", linking to an article of hers in the London Progressive Journal, has gotten me to thinking.

    Many looking at the images of smashed camps around Calais would like to know why those sad young men insist, against every obstacle, on remaining there and continuing to try to get into Britain. One said, in response to a reporter’s question, that there is respect for human rights in the UK. He may really believe that, but the same sort of ‘respect’, for what it’s worth, exists in other European countries. Given the extreme difficulty now of getting through the Channel Tunnel and into non-Schengen Britain, it’s logical to wonder why they don’t turn left to Spain or right to Belgium or almost anywhere else in Europe.

    Rather than believe that the UK is a human-rights paradise, we should understand that such migrants are trying to get here simply because that’s where their networks led them. When these men were thinking about leaving home they talked to everyone they could about the possibilities. If family, friends or paid smugglers had led them to another European capital, that’s where they would be. And that’s where they’d now be facing different problems, less interesting to media cameras than those in Calais. But their networks brought them to the north of France, and the same networks cannot now provide an alternate plan – particularly not from far away, back in Afghanistan or Iran.

    At this point [. . .] to find that it’s near impossible to get across the Channel is staggering. One got this far on information that was paid for. Now the last few stages turn out to be much harder than promised. Those unable to swim for ten hours in cold water face options of paying an unknown local smuggler, hanging on in place, despite French police actions, or changing life-plans drastically without good advice. Even an environment as hostile as Calais can seem better than a complete unknown.

    The story is similar for many women migrants described as trafficked in the mainstream media. When thinking about leaving home, they, too, talked to everyone they could about the possible options. They also followed routes known to family, friends and smugglers. If they passed the Schengen barrier and the water surrounding the UK, it helped that their methods were different – they didn’t try to hitch a ride through the tunnel. Now, of course, they can also be described as economic migrants, and, as such, be deported if caught – unless they can prove egregious enough treatment to qualify as victims of trafficking. But the prospects for being allowed to stay with a normal residence permit are slim.

    A recent Chris Bertram post at Crooked Timber makes a related point about the extent to which the barring of migrants from a country may well represent a fundamental injustice. Agustin suggests that in an environment where, in her perspective, illegal immigrants are complicit with their employers in partaking in these non-legal networks, the best way to deal with these stresses is to legalize these migrants, who do play major roles in local labour markets.

    In the harder context we see today, whether in London or Calais or Copenhagen or Amsterdam, the question is whether the availability of paid jobs couldn’t mean, in and of itself, that migrants can be employed legally. Forget governmental concepts like formal-informal economies for a moment. If a legal employer offers paid employment to a migrant, should that employment not allow him legal status? Why not? If he or she is paid a normal amount and taxes are paid by all, what’s the problem?