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Thailand: Flow Monitoring Surveys: Insights Into The Profiles And Vulnerabilities Of Myanmar Migrants To Thailand (December 2018)

Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Malaysia, Thailand
Summary Labour migration plays a key role in the South-East Asian context, particularly in Thailand. For a number of reasons, including the country’s steady economic growth over the past decades and the consequent need for labour, Thailand has continued to attract low-skilled workers from neighbouring countries. In the 2017 UN Migration Report1, the official number of international migrants in Thailand was estimated to be 3,589,000. However, the actual number of migrants living in Thailand is believed to be higher still, as undocumented migrants are not accounted for in official statistics. Nationals from Myanmar make up the largest migrant worker population in Thailand, with recent estimates putting the figure at 2.3 million individuals.2 In order to gain a better understanding of the migration patterns and the nature of flows from Myanmar to Thailand – with a particular focus on any possible vulnerabilities – IOM Thailand’s Migrant Assistance and Counter-Trafficking Unit initiated a survey exercise in May 2018 in the province of Tak, using one of the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) tools – the so-called Flow Monitoring component. Flow Monitoring is a tool designed to track movement flows, and the overall situation at key points of origin, transit and desti it is an optimal tool to provide a more detailed understanding of the migration situation at the Thai-Myanmar border. With special consideration to the experience of migrant workers, IOM Thailand aimed to find out more about migrants’ profiles, drivers of migration, level of preparedness for migration, as well as associated vulnerabilities and return intentions. From mid-June until mid-August 2018, a total of 4,284 Myanmar nationals were surveyed in the province of Tak, of whom 3,765 were identified as migrant workers. The 3,765 migrant workers fell into two different migrant groups. The first group was comprised of incoming migrants, arriving in Thailand prior to starting employment and the second group of outgoing migrants, returning after their employment ended. Two different survey tools were designed to capture the most accurate information possible for both target groups. The findings served to identify migration patterns as well as common challenges and vulnerabilities. In September 2018, IOM Thailand published “Flow Monitoring Surveys: Insights into the Profiles and Vulnerabilities of Myanmar Migrants to Thailand”, which analyzed the first round of survey data collected in Mae Sot and Phop Phra between mid-June and mid-August 2018. The initial report included an extensive theoretical section, reviewing existing literature for the five thematic areas of interest: Myanmar migrant profiles, drivers of migration, pre-migration preparations and arrangements, migrant vulnerabilities and return intentions. From mid-August to mid-October 2018, a total of 3,233 Myanmar nationals were surveyed in the province of Tak, of whom 3,013 were identified as migrant workers. This report will analyze the results of this second round of data collection, building on the first report published with a more detailed analysis of the data and examining the similarities and differences in results between the two rounds of data collection. In so doing, the report aims to advance a more comprehensive picture of Myanmar migrants in Thailand, with the larger dataset increasing the representativeness of findings. This report will follow the same structure as the first it will analyze the most interesting findings per thematic area and examine various correlations and dimensions of interest (including but not limited to gender, education, documentation status, employment sector or duration of stay in Thailand). Since many of the respondents had worked in Thailand before, the main findings of the report show that the information and expectations that incoming migrants have do not differ much from the experiences and impressions that outgoing migrants have when returning from Thailand. Furthermore, the data also supports many of the statements made in the first report published in September 2018. The results of the second round of data collection show that Myanmar migrants coming to Thailand for employment are predominately married male individuals with an average age of 30 years having either primary or secondary school education. The average preferred time to stay in Thailand was over a year, and the main provinces of destination correspond to the findings in Round One of data collection, namely Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Chon Buri and Tak. Kayin and Mon State, together with the Bago East region, remain the main migrant-sending states within Myanmar. A little under a quarter of the sample was unemployed before leaving Myanmar. Employment was the main reason cited for coming to Thailand, and the data shows that migration seems to be cyclical as a large share of the migrants surveyed had been to Thailand to seek employment before (particularly among the incoming migrants). As identified during the first round of data collection, migrants prefer to arrange employment before coming to Thailand, mainly through the help of family or friends in Thailand. Manufacturing and construction are particularly popular sectors of employment. Returning migrants reported paying, on average, more than twice what incoming migrants paid for their migration journeys. This can be attributed to the fact that returning migrants travelled further into Thailand. In order to finance the cost of migration, incoming migrants relied predominantly on their savings and income, whereas returning migrants more frequently reported having borrowed money from a variety of different actors. Returning migrants reported having sent, on average, USD 200 in remittances home every month. Having children in Myanmar does not appear to be a determining factor in remittance-sending behaviour. However, migrants with proper documentation appear to be more likely to send remittances than those with no documentation. Migrants earning above the median minimum wage are also more likely to send back remittances than those earning below it. On average, migrants ranked their ability to speak, understand and particularly read Thai as relatively low. Of those incoming migrants who had previously lived in Thailand, a larger share ranked their speaking and comprehension skills at medium to high levels. With respect to documentation status, those employed in the agriculture and domestic work sectors were more likely not to have any form of documentation. Respondents that worked in Tak province frequently reported wages below the provincial minimum wage, as did respondents returning from Bangkok, while migrants returning from Chon Buri and Samut Sakhon provinces reported, on average, higher wages than the provincial daily minimum wage. Fewer incoming migrants reported experiencing problems during their journeys than returning migrants, and incoming migrants also rarely expected to face problems at the workplace in Thailand. In contrast over a third of returning migrants reported having faced some kind of problem at the workplace and almost two thirds of the return sample expected to face challenges upon their return, mostly associated with their mental or physical health, as well as with finding a job. For roughly half of the migrants, their general financial situation improved through migration. For those that reported their financial situation as having deteriorated, the main reasons were attributed to not making enough money in Thailand or to accumulating debt. There seems to be a positive correlation between borrowing money to fund the migration journey and being financially worse off.

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