Labor Mobility



With intensifying globalization, reinforced by demographic changes, international labor mobility has been on the rise in recent decades in the Asia Pacific region. In fact, labor flows have played a pivotal role in the economic transformation of East Asia. A World Bank study estimates that the number of migrants doubled or even tripled in most net-labor importing countries between the early 1980s and 1997, with some 2 million foreign workers now employed in Northeast Asia and 3-4 million employed in Southeast Asia. Demographic and economic projections show that labor migration in the region is likely to accelerate with significant business implications.

Economic analyses show that the international movement of labor benefits both the labor-sending and labor-receiving economies, not to mention the migrants themselves. However, such flows tend to entail serious political and social problems in both types of economies while also causing international tensions. They should, therefore, be managed carefully at the national level in each economy as well as internationally.

There, however, is as of yet no international policy regime on labor migration in the Asia Pacific region although international organizations, such as the World Bank, IOM (International Organization for Migration), ILO (International Labor Organisation), and OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) have been conducting studies and seminars as well as establishing principles and norms at the global level.

The output from this project will consist of economic case studies, sub-regional synthesis reports on Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Australasia, and the (Pacific) Americas, as well as a synthesis report.


Project Team

The project is a joint effort between the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

Project Coordinator

Dr Soogil Young, Chair, KOPEC and President, National Strategy Institute, Korea.

Lead Author

Prof Graeme Hugo, Professor of the Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies and Director of the National Centre for Social Applications of Geographic Information Systems at the University of Adelaide.

Synthesis Authors

  • Northeast Asia: Dr. Jai-Joon Hur, Senior Fellow, Korea Labor Institute.
  • Southeast Asia: Dr. Chia Siow Yue, a Senior Fellow at Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
  • Australasia: Professor Graeme Hugo, Federation Fellow and Professor of Geography, University of Adelaide.
  • Pacific Americas: Dr. Sherry Stephenson, Organization of American States (OAS)

The project team's report will be based on case studies by authors selected by PECC member committees.


PECC-ABAC Conference
Demographic Change and International Labor Mobility in the Asia Pacific Region: Implications for Business and Cooperation

Hosted by KOPEC in collaboration with the Korea Labor Institute

Date and time
25-26 March 2008

Seoul, Korea


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Labour Mobility

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