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Precarity and Improvisation: Challenges and Strategies in Filipino Labour Migration

Amie L. Lennox


Migration is a dominant economic strategy in the Philippines, but migrants often struggle to overcome challenges and achieve the success that they hope for. Although much has been written about the precarity of migrant labour in the global economy, the struggles that migrants go through to access, maintain, and benefit from migrant labour has been less frequently explored. In the Philippines, the government’s active role in facilitating labour outmigration means that migration is legitimised but also regulated, where migration is actively encouraged but potential migrants must meet multiple criteria and demands to access overseas opportunities. The purpose of this article is to explore the difficulties that Filipino migrants face when trying to access, maintain and benefit from labour migration. As part of my fieldwork in Mindanao, the Philippines, I conducted life-narrative interviews with Filipinos who had worked overseas. In this article, I explore the migration process for two migrants and their families in the Philippines. The challenges that they have faced demonstrate where the moments of exclusion from the official migration process demand individual, improvised strategies to enter or re-enter the migrant labour structures. I argue that the ease and normality of migrants’ detachments from official migrant narratives demonstrate the precarity of Filipino migrants and their often-tenuous hold to the promise of successful labour migration.


the Philippines; labour migration; precarity; precarious labour

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