In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, imperial-led globalization facilitated European empire building in Southeast Asia, and the acquisition of colonies coincided with new commercial and trading networks between empires and imperial dominions. Britain dominated this first wave of globalization, which was characterized by modern economic growth, investment and agricultural expansion, and the commodification of labour in Asia. Colonial powers also sanctioned the export of labour and established indenture or contract labour regimes that enabled migrants to finance their travel and passage costs (Tinker 1974; Kaur 2004a). Improvements in shipping technology, the commercialization of passenger transportation, and trade policies further enhanced transregional connections and migration. Mainly Chinese and Indian migrants moved to Southeast Asia and the principal migration flows were to Malaya (comprising the Malay Peninsula and Singapore), Burma and Thailand, whilst the port cities of Singapore and Penang functioned as important transit hubs. By the late 1930s and 1940s, wars and globally depressed trade conditions resulted in reduced transnational movements as Britain and other European powers introduced border control systems and legislation to restrict immigration. Furthermore, after the Second World War, the imperial powers’ decolonization plans in Southeast Asia and the subsequent emergence of independent nation states foreshadowed the ending of open immigration policies. Consequently, by the 1960s, lowskilled labour migration had effectively been curtailed by the new Southeast Asian nation states (Kaur 2004b). After the Second World War, the United States emerged as the dominant economic power in a second wave of globalization, which was characterized by further integration of economic activities and labour markets. Furthermore, in the 1970s and 1980s, as international migration expanded, there was a revival of interest in the economics of labour migration and the benefits of transnational labour movements. This also led to a shift from political rhetoric to political reality in viewing international labour migration (ILM) as an integral component of broader socio-economic transformation processes both internationally and in Southeast Asia. In the development field, too, migration was extolled as an

important diversification strategy for poorer nations (See Black et al. 2005). Among other propositions, Black et al. (2005) state that since there are different kinds of migration, the migration experience can directly “structure” outcomes for different groups; and that inequality has to be defined in broader terms than simply “income or wealth”. They also acknowledge that all aspects of inequality are highly gendered. This study of ILM in Southeast Asia, and the politics of migration and in equality, centres on the immigration policies of Malaysia and Singapore and on the governance of ILM. Nevertheless, it cuts across the two-nation unit of analysis, since migration links these countries’ broader engagement with laboursending states in the region. From this perspective, migrant labour flows across different political, economic and social systems, and the foreign workers’ migration experiences, capture the political dynamics of ILM in Southeast Asia. The analysis is based on three aspects of the new geography of migration in the region. First, it reviews Singapore and Malaysia’s immigration policies and instruments and the forms of regulation developed by these states to monitor and control the employment of professional and skilled migrants on the one hand, and temporary guest workers on the other. Second, it looks at the structure of the migration industry and the role of employment agencies and their collusion with business and employers. Third, it examines the patterns of gendered migration flows, the experiences of migrant workers and the public controversies arising in response to abuses (and deaths) of migrant workers overseas. The study also explores the work of activists concerned with migrant labour issues and assists us in considering access to more equitable outcomes for migrant workers. Three key points are made. First, given the different migration categories (for example, professional/skilled migration; low-skilled temporary migration), not all migrants experience inequality in their migration experiences. Second, associational activity and advocacy by international and national nonstate actors and trade unions have been critical in promoting positive migration experiences and more equitable outcomes for low-skilled migrants (especially domestic workers). Third, policy interventions at national and international levels are providing opportunities for greater cooperation between migrant sending and destination states, particularly in the realm of human rights.