Myanmar Migrant Workers Benefit from Migration, Need More Protection: IOM Survey

Myanmar Migrant Workers Benefit from Migration, Need More Protection: IOM Survey

26/10/18 – Myanmar nationals benefit from labour migration to Thailand, but need more protection to reduce their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, according to preliminary findings from a flow monitoring survey conducted by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Between June and August 2018 IOM surveyed 4,130 incoming and returning Myanmar migrant workers at six locations in Mae Sot and Phop Phra in Thailand’s northwestern Tak province.

The survey is part of a larger, year-long assessment to obtain data on the flow of migrants from Myanmar to Thailand using IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) -  a set of tools and methodologies that collect primary data.

The information collected is expected to help identify migration patterns, the common challenges Myanmar migrants face, and how to better assist the most vulnerable.

Each migrant was asked a series of questions related to five thematic areas – socio-demographic and economic profiles, drivers of migration, level of preparedness for migration, vulnerabilities and return intentions.

The survey sheds light on the benefits Myanmar migrants experience by migrating to Thailand, as well as the challenges they face.

One key takeaway was that almost two thirds of those returning to Myanmar surveyed reported that working in Thailand has improved their financial situation.

But findings also indicate vulnerabilities that may expose migrant workers to abuse and exploitation. While 88 per cent of returning migrants confirmed that their expected wage and actual wage they received matched, half were paid below the median minimum wage of THB 318 (USD 9.66) per day.

In addition, incoming migrants tend to underestimate the potential for problems when migrating. When asked about their expectations at the workplace, only five per cent of respondents anticipated facing difficulties. In contrast, 20 percent of returning migrants reported having faced at least one issue or challenge.

Common grievances cited included delays in payment, withheld wages, long working hours and psychological stress.  Less than half of all respondents were able to identify support mechanisms to turn to, such as NGOs or consular officials, in the event that they needed assistance.

The findings also indicate that movements between the two countries are cyclical in nature. Two thirds of all respondents indicated that they had previously worked in Thailand, while 41 percent of returning migrants indicated an intention to migrate to Thailand again.

Myanmar migrant workers also prefer to arrange a job prior to arrival and stay in Thailand for at least one year. The manufacturing, construction, hospitality and food and beverage industries were the most common employment sectors.

While all 76 provinces in Thailand were indicated as locations of employment, Bangkok was the most popular destination for migrants coming into Thailand through crossing points in Mae Sot and Phop Phra. This was followed by the provinces of Tak, Chonburi, Phuket and Samut Sakhon.

“This assessment provides us with more information on the Myanmar migrant population in Thailand which can be used by IOM, governments and other actors for improved advocacy and protection, as well as enable the delivery of more targeted assistance,” said Nathalie Hanley, Head of IOM Thailand’s Migrant Assistance Unit. “The survey data, for example, clearly identifies the employment sectors least likely to pay salaries equivalent to the minimum wage - agriculture, domestic work and construction.”

Surveying in Tak province is expected to continue until mid-December 2018. The assessment will subsequently be expanded to cover cross-border movements of Cambodian and Lao migrant workers in and out of Thailand.

The surveys are part of IOM’s Asia Regional Migration Program - a regional migration management project funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM.)

Flow Monitoring Surveys: Insights into the Profiles and Vulnerabilities of Myanmar Migrants to Thailand can be downloaded in English here.

For further information, please contact please contact IOM Thailand. Nathalie Hanley, Email:, Tel: +66 2 343 9337 or Michelle Münstermann, Email:, Tel: +66 2 343 9565.