Post-structuralism is especially relevant to the study of migration policy, where there can be no fixed reality or interpretation of migration. In the present era, migration means different things to different people in different places. To understand a country’s policy initiatives pertaining to migration, it is crucial to have a holistic perspective of its need for migrants, local demographics, economic demands and its stage of national development. The context in which migration occurs determines the attitude towards policy-making. Edward Said’s concept of ‘the other’ could be extrapolated to today’s general perception of migrants. The very term ‘migrant’ implies exclusion and stresses the difference between ‘me’ and ‘the other’. Whether this identity is imposed or self-created, it is the reality of the host society that differentiates itself from migrants.
In the case of ASEAN, labour market demands of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have positioned these three states as the main corridors for migrant flow. Migrants from less developed Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines flock to the receiving states to earn more money. Low-skilled migrants, who make up more than 96 percent of intra-regional human mobility, are required for dirty and dangerous jobs that are shunned by locals. In receiving states, migrant workers are needed but not as much as they are not wanted. Often, migrants are tolerated instead of being welcomed. This is the context in which intra-ASEAN migration takes place.
Migration policies in Southeast Asia are tailored to the specific needs of member states. The context of such policies is different from situations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. There may be some similarities, but the execution styles of policies, labour market demands and economic needs differ among regions. In ASEAN, where intra-regional migration has risen by more than ten percent, migration policies have to be analysed and implemented in the context of the ten states’ grouping. With the exception of the Rohingyas who have refugee status, migration in Southeast Asia is equated to labour; migration means work. The predominant reason for human mobility is the search for employment. This is because movement within the region is made easier by advantages such as distance, connectivity, and time. Moreover, member states have complementary labour and economic needs.
Analysing Southeast Asian policies with regard to migration would require an appreciation of the context in which human mobility occurs in the region. In addition, the researcher would need to have a clear picture of the instruments of migration governance in each of the ten member states. The political and social reality of the region is unique. The political and social reality of each member state is unique. This is the context for the policy-researcher. This is the basis of the researcher’s interpretation of findings. Understanding the specific context of migration and migration policy, interpreting data based on this exclusive context, and attaching meanings to interpretations, given such a context, are the essence of post-structural policy analysis. Much of this understanding depends on the researcher’s frame of the research subject. Perhaps such an understanding is inspired by ‘The Death of the Author’, the French philosopher, Roland Barthes’ 1967 post-structural insight.