Circular labor migration and land-livelihood dynamics in Southeast Asia's concession landscapes | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
February 2020
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ISBN / Resource ID: 

Labor migration and large-scale land enclosures are increasingly central to the story of agrarian change throughout the Global South. Nonetheless, there remain limited understandings of how recent explosions of mobile labor and new sources of smallholder capital shape and are shaped by ongoing land use and property transformations. This article reviews this gap in Southeast Asia – a region where labor and capital are highly mobile and where the expansion of industrial agriculture and forestry has been particularly rapid. We begin by synthesizing recent labor migration trends in Southeast Asia and discussing key conceptual frameworks for studying labor mobility and agrarian transformations. We then summarize shifts in land use, land control, and labor relations linked to both labor mobility and large-scale land enclosures. We conclude by highlighting two questions deserving of further study. First, how do large-scale industrial agriculture and forest concessions affect rates and patterns of labor migration out of nearby communities? Second, how do new patterns of household resource control and labor allocation from labor migration affect land use and land cover, particularly in sites dominated by large-scale commodity concessions? These questions cannot yet be answered fully though work has begun to address them both directly or indirectly. We use the existing literature to highlight directions for future research on these themes.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Kelley, Lisa C.
Peluso, Nancy Lee
Carlson, Kimberly M.
Afiff, Suraya

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The purpose of the Mekong Land Research Forum online site is to provide structured access to published and unpublished research on land issues in the Mekong Region. It is based on the premise that debates and decisions around land governance can be enhanced by drawing on the considerable volume of research, documented experience and action-based reflection that is available.

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