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Labour Recruitment, Circuits of Capital and Gendered Mobility: Reconceptualizing the Indonesian Migration Industry

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During the last decade there has been a marked shift in the structure of migration from Indonesia with the deregulation of the transnational labour recruitment market after the fall of Suharto and a broader attempt across the region to regulate migrant flows to and from receiving countries in the wake of the Asian economic crisis. In this process, hundreds of Indonesian labour recruitment agencies have come to function as brokers in an increasingly government-regulated economy that sends documented migrants to countries such as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Based primarily on fieldwork on the island of Lombok, one of the major migrant-sending areas in Indonesia, the article considers the gendered aspects of this state–market relationship by focusing ethnographic attention on the initial stages of recruitment, as informal labour brokers deliver migrants to formal agencies. Critically, the article describes how capital increasingly flows “down” towards female migrants and “up” from male migrants—i.e., men must go into debt while women do not pay (or are even offered money) to travel abroad—thus highlighting the gendered dimensions of the current economy of transnational migration. More generally, the article argues for a renewed focus on the migration industry as a way of reconceptualizing Indonesian transnational migration in the context of contemporary forms of globalization.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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