Migration is often part of an economically beneficial livelihood strategy for transnational families. For many of the sending countries in South-east Asia, a growing proportion of transnational migrants are women – around 70% for the Philippines and Indonesia, and under 20% for Thailand and Vietnam. Many of these female migrants are married and an unknown number leave their children behind. Although most send remittances to left-behind kin, visits home tend to be infrequent with migrants going away for two or more years at a time. With demand from wealthy countries for domestic workers, nurses and other carers increasing as their populations age, solving care problems in rich countries may be creating a crisis of care in less developed countries. For instance, the physical and mental health of young children may be adversely affected by an absent parent, perhaps especially so when the migrant is the child’s mother.
Most past research has focused on the health of migrants themselves, including their role as vectors for disease spread. Complex transnational migration flows assume a structural role in Asian economies and societies, but little is known about the multi-dimensional impacts on left-behind families. While a recent WHO report concentrates on the ‘brain drain’ of health professionals in its section on ‘health implications for those left behind ’, it is not yet known whether left-behind children themselves are more vulnerable to poor health outcomes, or in what way, when and under what circumstances they benefit and/or suffer from the absence of parents. CHAMPSEA will fill this significant gap in existing knowledge.
No official data exist on the numbers of children under 12 with one or both parents absent due to migration. The extent of the ‘care crisis’ is unknown but could be considerable. Anecdotal evidence suggests that growing numbers of female transnational migrants from the region leave children behind. State-sponsored welfare systems in sending countries are generally underdeveloped, with extended kinship networks traditionally functioning as support systems. CHAMPSEA will be the first to examine the reconfiguration of these support systems after parental migration and the impact on child health/well-being in South-east Asia, analyzing the impact of parental absence on the health/well-being of left-behind children.
The Wellcome Trust, UK
Investigator(s) and Collaborator(s):
Brenda Yeoh and Elspeth Graham (joint principal investigators)
Paul Boyle, Chee Heng Leng, Wong Mee Lian (co-investigators)
Sukamdi, Maruja Asis, Aree Jampaklay, Dang N. Anh (country representatives)
Ian Wilson (statistical advice and expertise)
Andiara Schwingel and Lucy Jordan (postdoctoral fellows)
Theodora Lam (research assistant)
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