Asian and Pacific Migration Journal


Securing a Better Living Environment for Left-Behind Children: Implications and Challenges for Policies
Theodora Lam, Miriam Ee, Hoang Lan Anh and Brenda S.A. Yeoh

Migration is an increasingly significant driver of transformations in family configurations and caregiving practices as well as living arrangements. The sustainability of geographically-split family formations is dependent on several factors, including the presence and strength of care support networks among migrants and their left-behind families, access to communication infrastructure and the stability of the families’ financial resources. Drawing on both a selective review of relevant academic literature as well as key findings from the CHAMPSEA Project, the article first examines the effects of these three factors on the well-being of migrants’ left-behind family members,especially children. The article also considers major implications of the project’s findings, as well as possible challenges for migration and development policies. One area of concern for migration and development policy arising from our research findings is the need to provide better support for left-behind caregivers or carers who are substituting for the absent migrant in childcare and domestic work but who may also need care and support themselves. Another area relates to the need to improve communication infrastructure to help migrants and their families maintain their relationships across transnational spaces; while a third lies with the importance of minimizing migrant families’ economic stress stemming from the cycle of debts resulting from exorbitant broker fees and the mismanagement of remittances. By acknowledging both the social and economic costs of international labor migration on families, governments of labor-sending countries can create a more effective legal and institutional framework as well as design suitable supporting mechanisms for left-behind families. There is then a stronger possibility that migration can become a sustainable development strategy for transnational families in South-East Asia.