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School of Law

Migration, gender and the law in South East Asia and beyond

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

This is a new, half unit course offered for the first time in the Term 2, 2009/2010. It is open to students enrolled on the following programmes: LLM, MA International and Comparative Legal Studies, MA Law, Culture and Society, MA Law, Development and Globalisation, MA Human Rights Law, MA Pacific Asian Studies (subject grouping – Law) , MA South East Asian Studies (subject grouping – Law). Students on the MA Gender Studies programme may also take this course.

This is a unique course which looks at an emerging area of legal studies. Its focus is unskilled, low-wage migrants, particularly, those who work as domestic workers. The course title is descriptive of the how domestic workers are mainly women who undertake a form of employment in which her chief employer is also a woman and where the work she does has for a long time been treated very differently from other forms of work. We focus on South East Asia because countries such as Indonesia and Philippines are exporters of migrant workers while other countries in the region such as Singapore and Malaysia host such workers in large numbers. The course is also likely to look beyond South East Asia to the Pacific Asia region to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Laws facilitate migration, but, at the same time, act as a legal status marker to which labour and other laws of the host country are applied or excluded from application. The course will introduce students to the empirical context for migrant labour in South East Asia, including the labour and welfare policies of the sending and host countries which have and continue to shape the demand for foreign domestic workers. Students will acquire an understanding of the lives of migrant domestic workers, from the push and pull factors that lead them to leave their own homes for the homes of others in a different country, to the often limited training which is offered, and the common difficulties faced by a migrant domestic worker. This insight will then inform the understanding, and assessment of the adequacy of, current legal responses, and the consideration of the possibilities and limits of law reform. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • understanding of the empirical context in which migrant labour in South East Asia occurs; the impact of labour and welfare policies of the sending and receiving countries; and the process and experience of becoming a migrant worker
  • knowledge of how migrant labour is facilitated, defined and controlled by law
  • knowledge of the framework of immigration and labour rules through which migrant domestic workers arrive to work in some of the countries in South East Asia and beyond
  • understanding of common abuses of the law by employer and migrant workers and how these are enforced, if not left unchecked
  • ability to assess the effectiveness of law in this area of study

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 10% presentation and 90% coursework (one essay of 5,000 words)