Attitudes towards migrant workers

Many developing countries, including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, are facing labour shortages due to ageing populations and in some cases, low fertility rates. Employers struggle to find local labour, in particular for labour jobs that are demanding, such as in the construction, fishing, domestic work and manufacturing sectors. In many cases, migrants take up these, Unwanted jobs but instead of receiving credit, they are perceived as criminals or stealing jobs.

A recent study by the Safe and Fair initiative, carried out by Rapid Asia, found that Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, all have prevailing negative attitudes towards migrant workers, often expressed in the form of baseless accusations. Relatively few people are aware of the contribution migrant workers make to the economy and how reliant employers are on these workers. In a world that is becoming more influenced by right wing ideas and increasingly polarized, it may not be surprising that the study found that attitudes towards migrant workers have worsened over the past 10 years. But the more interesting question is why is this happening and what can be done.

To better understand the extent to which people support or don’t support migrant workers, a proven model was used (KAP Score) that takes into account peoples’ knowledge, attitude and behavior towards migrant workers. One of the Model’s key indicators is the KAP Index. The higher the index, the more supportive people are towards migrant workers. The figure below shows how support for migrant workers has declined since 2010.


To understand what lies behind this shift further analysis revealed that

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About the authors:  Daniel Lindgren is the Founder of Rapid Asia Co., Ltd., a management consultancy firm based in Bangkok that specializes in evaluations for programs, projects, social marketing campaigns and other social development initiatives. Tanya Motwani is an independent consultant with a passion for social development work. Learn more about our work on: