Research Clusters

Migration, Urbanization and Labour

This cluster focuses on studies of various factors related to domestic and international migration, urbanisation, settlement patterns, area studies, labour and labour markets.  The aim of this research cluster is to apply concepts, theories and research methodologies to generate data to inform policy, vision and directions of research in the future.  This cluster advocates for multi-disciplinary research in the following key areas:

1. Migration

Migration has a wide range of manifestations around the world and Thailand is not exempt from the effects of migration.  IPSR has been interested in migration since its founding and is a leading research institute in this area.  IPSR has collaborated with various institutes and organisations over the past 30 years on migration studies.  In 2010, IPSR established the “Mahidol Center for Migration Studies” to create a network and body of knowledge about migration and the factors behind migration using a theoretical framework and multi-disciplinary methodology including demography, sociology, humanities, political science and economics to produce empirical findings to inform national development policy.

It is well-known that the direction of global and regional economic development is impacting on Thailand.  Thailand first began using five-year development plans in 1961 and is currently implementing the 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan. These plans have stimulated improvements in communication and infrastructure and this has facilitated population movements, both domestic and international.

The most important migration stream is from rural to urban areas, particularly Bangkok and other large cities.  There is also inter-urban migration and urban-to-rural migration which spiked during the economic crisis of 1997.  There is seasonal migration and commuting migration too from suburban areas around large cities. Patterns and causes of migration are complex and involve multiple factors at many levels (i.e. individual, family, community and national).  Initially, studies of domestic migration looked at stimulating factors which led people to migrate.  Later, studies began looking at the impact of migration on origin and destination areas.  IPSR considers that the province is the most important unit of analysis in exerting responsibility for policy and characteristics of population distribution with an interest in maximizing the cost-effectiveness of development programmes.

There need to be more studies on facilitating factors with an eye towards development goals and migration and management of population movement in order to support and link with relevant policies.  In addition to domestic migration, cross-border migration among neighbouring countries is taking on increasing significance as regions try to organise political and economic unions and as standard of living differentials are increasing. Thailand’s higher level of economic development provides a magnet for lower-income migrants from its poorer neighbours to migrant to the country.  At the same time, there are Thai labour shortages for some of the more labor-intensive industries in Thailand.  Both push and pull factors for cross-border movement are clearly evident in Thailand.

In the past, IPSR has shown an interest in international migration, the structure of migration, problems of cross-border movements and international migration policy. It is increasingly important to understand the dynamics and impacts of the increased volume of migration, domestic and international, regardless of motivation for migration.  This understanding will help inform policy and development efforts in the region and help find human ways to manage the flows.

2. Urbanisation

Cities or municipalities are magnets for youth and those in the labuor force.  There are more opportunities for education, jobs, modern domiciles and transportation.  But rapid urbanisation spawns challenges and adverse impacts such as dense low-income settlements, environmental degradation, un-employment, poverty and health specific to crowded urban living.  IPSR has been interested in these issues continuously because of their relationship with the distribution and concentration of populations.  In the first phase, IPSR’s research looked at the relationship between urban living, birth rates and socio-economic change.  Later in the 1980’s, IPSR studies began to look at demographic variables such as fertility, mortality, migration, population structure and household size and conducted comparative analyses of urban and rural settings. IPSR also conducted cross-national studies of these variables looking at development and the expansion of cities.  The research looked at urban design, addressing the problem of slums, development challenges, environmental impacts and short- and long-term demographic impacts in the localities.

This cluster has a special interest in social impacts of urbanisation in different contexts whether in the area of development, government policy, the economy or human settlements.  An important feature of this cluster will be empirical studies to expand conceptual thinking about urbanisation and urban lifestyles with an eye towards producing policy recommendations to address challenges and adverse impacts from urbanisation.

3. Human Settlements

Human settlements, whether villages, communities or cities all have certain organisational features including social, cultural and spiritual dimensions to promote sustainability of the settlement and to meet the basic human needs of its members.   Nevertheless, some settlements contain risks and vulnerabilities for inhabitants.  These risks result from changes in the climate, society and culture.  This cluster therefore promotes studies to explore the theoretical concepts and empirical findings which explain these phenomena and can help inform policy to improve the security, quality of life and prosperity of human settlements.

4. Area Studies

IPSR is interested in area studies because of the need to use a multi-disciplinary approach in research in order to fully explain phenomena.  Multiple, complementary theoretical outlooks can comprehensively explain dynamics and consequences of multiple factors and produce more well-informed and effective policy.  IPSR is giving priority to the Mekong River Basin sub-region, Southeast Asia and Asia as a whole.

5. Labour

It is well-known that the changing structure and components of the population impact on labour and demand for labour.   Labour determines output and productivity of the individual and the country as a whole.  Business tries to maximize the efficiency of labour and this can affect the economic growth rate of the country.  IPSR started studying labour and employment three decades ago.  In the 1970’s, IPSR looked at the relationship between labour force participation and birth rates as well as socio-economic changes.  In later years, IPSR added in-depth studies of special groups of the work force such as child labour, workers in the fisheries to its research agenda.

IPSR gives importance to structure and composition of the labour force and demand for labour in the production sector.  This focus helps to define how to achieve optimisation of the labour force and can also help to define future demand for labour and conduct labour planning.  This cluster will apply theories and methods to produce models to generate data or empirical findings for authorities and decision-makers to consider in formulating labour policy.