P 2019

Public attitudes towards migrant workers in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand


Author: ILO/UN Women

Public support for migrant workers remains limited in key destination countries in ASEAN, reveals a joint ILO/UN Women report warning against discriminatory attitudes and practices against migrant workers.

In 2010, the International Labour Organization (ILO) conducted a large-scale public opinion survey of 4,020 nationals in four Asian migrant destination countries – the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand – to assess public attitudes towards migrant workers.

In 2019, nearly a decade later, the TRIANGLE in ASEAN (ILO) and Safe and Fair (ILO and UN Women) projects have conducted a similar survey of 4,099 nationals to track trends in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, and adding Japan, given its emergence as an important destination country for low-skilled migrant workers in Asia.

Findings from the study indicate that support for migrant workers has decreased overall in the last nine years. Where there is public support for migrants, it is largely driven by the relationships people have with migrant workers, rather than demographic characteristics. Knowledge regarding migrant workers across the four countries remains low, and discriminatory attitudes prevail with significant numbers of members of the public in migrant destination countries stating that migrant workers should not enjoy equal working conditions with nationals.

However, the public in countries of destination show more positive support for policies that particularly address gender equality, violence against women, and problems in women dominant job sectors. Respondents largely agreed that care work should be recognized as a profession, and that women migrant workers should receive maternity leave. Similarly, respondents expressed support for shelters when women migrant workers face violence, and for stronger enforcement against violence against women.

More information: ILO Asia Pacific. Publication revised in 2020.