GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Froilan, Jr.
Title of Paper:
Does Proactive Migration Diplomacy Matter? The Case of the Philippine State in the Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
Traditional scholarship has framed labor-sending states as “powerless” and “rule takers” due to their limited sovereign power—either perceived or actual—to exert legal, economic, and diplomatic influences in the destination countries. This asymmetric power relations has thus increasingly generated a policy dilemma for many labor-sending states like the Philippines between protecting their citizens’ labor rights and welfare and maintaining labor market access in the Gulf region. Given the structural constraints in the Gulf region, this paper investigates the complex roles and impacts of the Philippine state’s pro-active migration diplomacy on the migrant labor rights and welfare in the Gulf region, particularly in Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE. Drawing from 100 in-depth qualitative interviews and field observations between 2011 and 2016 with Filipino labor diplomats, welfare officers, labor rights leaders, and migrant workers, this paper argues that, despite the structural legal, institutional, and diplomatic constraints, the Philippine state, acting through the agency of frontline state bureaucrats, has, to an extent, influenced the migrant labor rights and welfare under the Kafala Sponsorship System in the Gulf region by employing multiple and complex informal governance strategies to systematically protect Filipino migrants from labor violations. These informal governance practices (i.e. labor mediation program, 48 hour ban policy, 48 hour policy ban)—conceptualized as “burden-sharing” and “burden-shifting” strategies)—have not only appeared to enable the Philippine state to reinforce their capacity to rule, but also cultivate diplomatic relationships, power, and conflicts that significantly determine policy outcomes. These empirical findings particularly contribute to the larger theoretical debates on the role of state in international migration by shifting the discourse to the human agency of the state (mainly of state bureaucrats) to understand how labor-sending countries determine policy outcomes in the authoritarian destination countries.