Regional migration: A feasible option for livelihood diversification for the Mekong’s poor?

Migration is a significant issue in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), which consists of Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guangxi), Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. International labour migration from GMS countries is steadily increasing, both within GMS countries and to other countries. The estimated number of migrants from GMS countries (except China) was over 6 million in 2004 (IOM 2008). Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar are considered to be among the world poorest countries, classified as least-developed countries by the United Nations. They are also situated in one of the most economically-dynamic regions in Asia. As these countries move from centrally-planned economies to permit greater flows of goods and investment across borders, there has been new regional economic space created, which encompasses shared natural resources. Human mobility follows greater economic integration. Despite the volume and increasing size of international remittances, little attention has been paid to study the poverty impact of migration- remittance transfers on the community and country of origin. The majority of studies so far have concentrated on living and working conditions and labour rights in the recipient country.

The main purpose of this study is to contribute to the development debate and inform policy related to the challenges and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and resources in the GMS. In particular, it investigates the impact of migration at the level of the community-of-origin of migrants, exploring migration as an option for livelihood enhancement and resilience building. The specific objectives of the project are to identify and better understand the various aspects of the evolving migration debate in the Mekong Region.