Migration Industries and the State: Guestwork Programs in East Asia

Kristin Surak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Studies of migration industries have demonstrated the critical role that border-spanning businesses play in international mobility. To date, most research has focused on meso-level entrepreneurial initiatives that operate in a legal gray area under a state that provides an environment for their growth or decline. Extending this work, the present article advances a taxonomy of the ways states partner with migration industries based on the nature of their relationship (formal or informal) and the type of actor involved (for-profit or non-profit). The analysis focuses on low-paid temporary migrant work programs — schemes that require substantial state involvement to function — and examines cases from the East Asian democracies with strong economies that have become net importers of migrants: Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. The conclusion, incorporating cases beyond Asia, explicates the properties and limits of each arrangement based on the degree of formality and importance of profit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-523
Number of pages37
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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