Myanmar migrants hope to return home

Posted: 
12/17/13

Thailand - A wide-ranging survey of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand has found that the majority plan to return to their homeland to benefit from the economic and political reforms under way. 

IOM interviewed over 5,000 Myanmar workers across the seven border and non-border provinces of Thailand that host the largest numbers of migrants, with 80 per cent expressing a desire to return – 41 per cent of these within the next five years.

As well as giving a broad picture of migrants’ experiences and motivations before, during, and after migration, the study has implications for the Thai economy, which is heavily dependent on migrant workers and could face a labour shortage of over 5,000,000 by 2025. 

Myanmar nationals currently represent the largest group of migrant workers in Thailand, around two thirds of the country’s 3.5 million migrant population. 

The report will be presented jointly by IOM Thailand and the Asian Research Center for Migration (ARCM) at a conference at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, on Wednesday 18 December, International Migrants Day. It will be launched on the same day in Nay Pyi Taw by IOM’s Mission in Myanmar. 

“The results indicate that many migrants are looking to return to Myanmar within a few years.  If this is the case, then Thailand may well be confronted with a shortage of workers, which highlights the need to improve salaries and work conditions to remain competitive. Thailand should also continue to facilitate registration for work visas,” says Jeffrey Labovitz, Chief of Mission at IOM Thailand.

The report shows that fully documented and decently paid migrants experience higher levels of satisfaction with working in Thailand and, despite feeling more optimistic about their prospects in Myanmar, are planning to stay longer in Thailand. 

This suggests that sectors and areas that offer lower incomes, such as agriculture and fisheries especially in border provinces, will be hit hardest by returns in the short term, note the report’s authors.

The survey was conducted in collaboration with relevant government departments, civil society and migrant communities, with funding from the IOM Development Fund and support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. 

For further information contact 

Michiko Ito
Resettlement Officer
IOM  Thailand
Tel:  +6623439334
Email: mito@iom.int