Rights & Skills MekongMigrants

Labour migration to Thailand is an important livelihood strategy for poor families in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanm ar. The majority of migrants currently work as low skilled non-regulars for minim um wages. The project will im prove the poverty reduction contribution of migrant workers, especially of women, through pre-departure and in-service skills and life skills training, resulting in jobs with higher incomes, and through policy influencing for regularization, resulting in better employment and safer working conditions.

Country/region Period Budget
01.07.2024 - 31.12.2024

Currently, at least 4 million migrants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar work in Thailand. Their number is projected to grow by at least 50% over the coming 10 years. They mostly enter Thailand without perm it and work as unskilled labourers for minimum wages in agriculture, construction, domestic work, hospitality, fisheries, and manufacturing. It is estimated that the remittances of Lao migrants make up 25-50% of the income of the families living below the poverty line in their home country. Non-regular migration is a constituent element of Mekong migration regimes, entrenched in the political economy of countries of origin and destination. The situation has become more fluid recently, due to pressing labour needs and political change in Thailand. More than 2.6 million migrants were regularized in 2014, and Thailand now seeks to establish a circular migration regime. Not all migrants profit from this change: especially the women employed as domestic workers are not regularized, since their work is not recognized as form al occupation. But given the socio-economic changes in the ageing Thai society with a need to become more attractive for migrant workers, there is a window of opportunity for improvements in migration policies and practices also for those migrants.

Given that Switzerland is funding skills development projects in all 3 countries of origin, there is potential to add value to those bilateral projects through a regional project. The main project impact hypothesis is to im prove the poverty reduction contribution of migrants through pre-departure and in-service skills and life- skills training, resulting in better jobs with higher incomes, and through policy influencing for regularization, resulting in better employment and safer working conditions. The project intends to focus on domestic workers, nearly all of them women, and on hospitality or construction workers, nearly half of them also women. The inclusion of additional sectors of the economy will be assessed.

SDC’s main contracting partner is IOM, with sub-contracts for policy work to ILO and possibly UN-W omen. The project is planned over 9 years and a budget of roughly 17 million CHF, with a one- year inception phase and 2 4- year phases. The inception phase (850’000 CHF opening credit) will mainly test assumptions and answer feasibility questions (Is it possible to work with non-regular migrants in Thailand? Will upskilling lead to higher wages? Are migrants and employers willing to engage in upskilling? What are the cooperation modalities between IOM, ILO, UN-Women, and the Swiss funded skills development projects?), and will result in a full project document for the first main phase.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Other International Organization
  • International Organisation for Migration

Implementing partner
Multiple Local Partners

Estimated operational start of intervention

(Main Credit Phase 1): 1.11.2016

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF   0 Swiss disbursement to date CHF   0
Project phases

Phase 99 01.07.2024 - 31.12.2024   (Active)

Phase 1 01.11.2015 - 31.08.2021   (Current phase)