By the Numbers: Human Security in Southeast Asia

The data driving Asia

Human security conditions continue to be a major concern across Southeast Asia, and this week we take a look at migrant workers, refugees, and other transnational flows of people across the region.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) on January 9 released a report titled “Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection,” which finds the Asia-Pacific to be one of the weakest performers in providing legal protection and decent working conditions for domestic workers, many of whom are migrants. We examine the issue by the numbers for those whose living conditions are often difficult due to their illegality or stateless status.

21.5 million

The estimated number of domestic workers in the Asia-Pacific — the most in any region according to the recent ILO report. The largest numbers of domestic workers are found in India (4.2 million), Indonesia (2.4 million), and the Philippines (1.9 million). China was excluded due to lack of data.


The percentage of domestic workers that are women in the Asia-Pacific, according to the ILO. 7.8 percent of women in the Asia-Pacific work in the domestic work sector.


The number of Indonesians entering Malaysia illegally to work as maids or laborers in 2012, according to the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia. Only about 100 Indonesians were legally authorized to enter Malaysia for work last year.


The percentage of domestic workers in the Asia-Pacific that are covered by a cap on the maximum number of hours they can be made to work each week. Only 3 percent of domestic workers get a weekly day of rest, 12 percent are covered by a minimum wage, and 24 percent receive maternity leave or cash benefits under respective national legislations. This makes the Asia-Pacific the second worst-performing region in providing legal entitlements to domestic workers.


The number of migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar who failed to meet Thailand’s December 15 deadline for national verification (NV). Labor Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap announced on January 15 that the NV deadline will be extended to April 15, allowing unverified workers to stay in Thailand and complete the process. Thailand’s government introduced the NV system to allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, but corruption has made it costly and troublesome for poor illegal workers to participate.


The Taung Paw Camp in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Human security issues continue to be a major concern in Southeast Asia. Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Service’s flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.


The number of stateless Rohingya. Myanmar’s 1982  Citizenship Act effectively bars Rohingya from seeking citizenship, as they must prove that their ancestors lived in Myanmar prior to 1823. Rights groups argue that the law violates principles of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that children have the right to nationality at birth.


The average price Rohingya pay to be smuggled out of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, according to IRIN. This is more than four times Myanmar’s 2009 GDP per capita, which the United Nations reported as only $379.60.


The number of people smuggled out of Myanmar’s Rakhine State and Bangladesh by boat in the first week of January, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 13,000 people left the Bay of Bengal on smugglers’ boats in 2012, at least 485 of whom died or remain missing.


The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Myanmar as of January, according to the UNHCR. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that the number of IDPs in Kachin and Shan States alone is 75,000 as of August 2012.


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