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03 Mayo 2019

Debt and the Migration Experience: Insights from South-East Asia

Debt and indebtedness are central to the lives of migrants from South-East Asia. Indebtedness can motivate the need for migration and, conversely, migrants regularly use loans to finance costly cross-border moves. The remittances that migrants then send home are often used to repay household debt. Yet while debt is frequently linked to migration, we are only now beginning to understand the scope and impact of debt on migrants’ lives.

Debt and the Migration Experience focuses attention on the role of debt in the migration process. It explores how debt influences migration decision-making, its role in facilitating migration, the lived experiences of indebtedness among migrant workers, and, finally, how debt shapes return decision-making and experiences. It also aims to expand the understanding of how debt and financial insecurity shape the potential for sustainable return in the region. In this process, it is critical to understand how debt is taken and used across the migration experience. Indebtedness and other forms of financial insecurity that return migrants experience are often related to the specific circumstances of their migration and any debt associated with it. Through a better understanding of the relationship between migration and debt, the study aims to offer feasible recommendations on how to alleviate the burden of debt experienced by migrant workers and returnees in the region, and to suggest avenues for future research.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Figures and tables
  • Case studies
  • Acronyms
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What is sustainable return?
  • 3. Research methodology
  • 4. The link between debt and migration
    • 4.1. Overview
    • 4.2. Debt as a motivator of migration
    • 4.3. Debt as a means of financing migration
    • 4.4. Debt in the migration experience
    • 4.5. The impact of debt on sustainable return
  • 5. Survey findings
    • 5.1. Overview
    • 5.2. Returned migrants at a glance
    • 5.3. Migration costs and the role of debt in financing migration
    • 5.4. Reasons for return
    • 5.5. Social and financial challenges on return
    • 5.6. Differences between indebted and unindebted returnees
    • 5.7. Financial insecurity among return migrants
    • 5.8. Summary of survey findings
  • 6. Qualitative interview findings
    • 6.1. Overview
    • 6.2. Debt and the migration experience
    • 6.3. Documentation-related debt
    • 6.4. Investment-related debt
    • 6.5. Debt associated with regular recruitment
    • 6.6. Debt as a barrier to sustainable return
    • 6.7. Summary of qualitative interview findings
  • 7. Towards an intersectional understanding of debt and vulnerability
  • 8. The way forward, in theory and in practice
    • 8.1. Reducing the costs of migration
    • 8.2. Financial literacy
    • 8.3. Responsible lending targeting migrant workers
  • 9. A multilevel approach: Conclusions and recommendations
  • References