New report sheds light on health challenges of migrants in South-East Asia

South-East Asia’s migrant workers often face immense hardship throughout their migration experience, such as stigma and discrimination, exploitative working conditions, social exclusion and, critically, a lack of access to health services, says a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report, entitled The Right to Health: Right to Health for Low-skilled Labour Migrants in ASEAN Countries, provides a comprehensive situational overview of labour migration governance in relation to low-skilled migrant workers in South-East Asia. It examines the legal, social, and cultural factors affecting the right to health for migrant workers in the region and gives an overview of relevant international standards, including their specific application to migrant workers.

“Migrant health is a growing concern in the context of discussions on migration and development,” said Nadia Rasheed, Regional Team Leader for HIV, Health and Development at UNDP. “This report details the multiple factors impeding access to health for migrants in the region and provides recommendations for country consideration on how to address these issues through rights-based policy, legal frameworks, partnerships and health systems strengthening.”

In terms of migration, South-East Asia is one of the most active regions in the world. Globally, there are more than 14 million international migrant workers who originate from South-East Asia; around 6 million of these migrants move to work within the region.

The report finds that multiple factors throughout the migration cycle can lead to detrimental health outcomes following the migrants’ return to their home countries; those who have experienced precarious employment, social isolation, difficulties in accessing health services, and suffered poor work and living conditions are most vulnerable to ongoing health adversity.

Notably, all ASEAN member states are signatories to the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants, which calls on countries to promote migrant-sensitive health policies and practices. This provides a significant regional mandate for action to address the health-related vulnerabilities of all migrants, including migrant workers.