Understanding the feedback processes between migration and social resilience to climate risks requires deeper insights in both the places of origin as well as destinations of migrants. The types of migration, characteristics of migrants as well as the nature, mechanisms, and function of connectedness – what we consider crucial aspects of translocality – are strongly influenced by the interplay of places. The main geographical focus of our research is Thailand.
When we want to understand how people adapt to the diverse impacts of climate change, middle-income countries, such as Thailand, provide a good case in point. In Thailand, a substantial part of the rural population still depends on agricultural livelihoods and is highly exposed to climate-related risks. At the same time, farmers in middle-income countries tend to have enough assets and resources to adapt to adverse environmental impacts.
Thailand is also a country with high rates of internal and international migration. Traditionally, migration has long been a common strategy to adapt to economic crises, land shortage, and agricultural seasonality.
This unique interplay of climatic, environmental, and socio-cultural factors, makes rural Thailand an ideal research area for conducting an in-depth empirical analysis of the linkages between migration, climate risk, and social resilience.
The starting point
Our research will start at different villages in North and Northeast Thailand. To understand the transformation induced by feedback processes of migration and translocality, and its effects on social resilience to climate risks, we will follow different migration trajectories of internal as well as international migrants. Our project seeks to cover the main types of destination areas of rural out-migration in Thailand, which are specifically:
→ Urban and industrial areas within Thailand
→ Regional destinations in Asia mainly for low-skilled migrant workers
→ And trans-continental destinations of high skilled migrants or marriage migration
Our research seeks to compare feedback processes that are produced through different migration systems. Within Thailand, the Bangkok Metropolitan Region is an important hub, as most industrial estates are located in the surroundings of the capital. To explore the effects of international migration, we will focus on Singapore as an example of labor migration as well as Germany as an example of marriage migration.
Singapore is a sovereign city-state that is located south of the Malay Peninsula. The small island country is a neighbor to Malaysia and Indonesia and a major economic hub in the region. Singapore´s economy is highly dependent on both high-skilled and low-skilled migrant workers.
After Taiwan, Singapore has long been the second most important destination for Thai migrants, which form the largest section of Singapore's foreign workforce. Recently the number of new arrivals has slowed down as Singaporean employers have begun to replace them with cheaper workers from Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar. In 2010, around 1.09 million migrant workers were residing in Singapore (about 20% of the total population of Singapore), the majority of them (870,000 people) are low-skilled workers in construction, manufacturing, and marine industries as well as domestic work. Today, there are more than 36,000 registered Thai migrant workers in Singapore.
The migration flows from Thailand to Germany display a unique pattern--one that hinges on marriage migration. The total number of Thai migrants seems small when compared to other migrant groups (e.g. compared to 1.6 million migrants from Turkey). However, the Thai migrant population has grown steadily and rapidly since the 1960s. Thailand is now the 6th most important non-European source country of migrants. According to the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF), there are currently more than 58.638 Thai migrants living in Germany [data from 2013]. The predominance of marriage migration from Thailand is expressed in the highly gendered nature of the migration flow: 86.2%  of all migrants from Thailand are female. It is by far the highest share of female migrants of all source countries.
The selection of our research sites (including destination places within Thailand as well as Singapore and Germany) is influenced by the objective of developing a comparative understanding of the influence of the distinctive characteristics of the places of destination on translocal connectedness, and, by extension, on social resilience in the place of origin of migrants. This allows the comparison of a set of important variables: legal status; social integration; duration of stay; gender; distance and more.
→ Get to know our project in-depth (video)
→ The project in-depth (Working Paper)