Migrant Labour and the Failure of Legal Regulation: Extinction for Asian Tigers

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
CLM.3.04 (Clement House)
Mark Findlay, Singapore Management University, Singapore, Singapore
Si Wei Lim, University of Sydney, Singapore, Singapore
Analysing home and host migrant labour markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and reflecting on the 'ASEAN way' of regulation the paper explores crucial stages in migration flow and the nature of their legal regulation (with a focus on contract and agency). The thesis of the paper is that the present laissez faire regulatory approach is producing unsustainable market economies which will lead eventually to a dangerous expansion in presently existing wealth gaps, and a deterioration of social, political and economic bonds on which labour markets rely, in wider domestic market settings.  Rethinking the legal regulation of private property arrangements is advanced as a method for shifting both regulatory principle and outcomes.

The unique perspective of the paper is approaching the commodification of labour from its potential to dis-embed market economies rather than create wealth and economic growth.  It is suggested that a regulatory frame for advancing human dignity, rather than unenforceable rights paradigms, might be more effective in the reversal away from dis-embedding.  Law is presented as a mechanism to promote and protect dignity through a repositioning of access to private property, rather than the perpetuation of its exclusive befit.  Specific mechanisms of contract and agency are traced in the migration of labour in Asia to offer contexts for this transposition.