Labour Migration Research Cluster

Within the Westminster Development Policy Network, we have a cluster of researchers with an interest in work and migration, mainly of low-skilled and low-waged workers. This group looks at current issues faced by these migrant workers during their stay in host countries; for they are often excluded from benefits which citizens enjoy, may work in unregulated environments and in poor conditions. The cluster is also interested in their experiences at the point of migration, or upon return to their home countries. Researchers focus on intra-region migration, or migration from developing to developed countries. Research on migration from, within and into Latin America, China and the US are particularly welcomed.

We come from diverse disciplines: law, international development, social policy, social innovation and politics. Our diversity is our strength, allowing us to investigate migration issues from multiple perspectives.

We have links with other migration researchers and practitioners, NGOs, trade unions, government departments and health care providers who have worked with low-waged and low-skilled migrants.

Our experience in working in Malaysia

Lilian Miles and Tim Freeman have research experience in supporting the needs of excluded and marginalised populations in policy planning.

Lilian was commissioned by the United Nations Gender Theme Group Malaysia (2017, £25k) to develop a health toolkit for use with women migrant workers in Malaysia. In developing the toolkit, she worked with her collaborators at the Centre for Research on Women and Gender, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Lilian and Tim were commissioned by UNWOMEN (2019, $15k) to consult with a wide range of stakeholders in Malaysia in order to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women migrants in its factories, as well as explore ways in which gender-based violence against them can be prevented. The Strategy Paper written for UNWOMEN (2019) resulted from inclusive policy development techniques and informed the drafting of Malaysia’s Twelfth National Development Plan (2021-2025).

In 2020, Lilian and Tim, along with their Malaysian collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia, received funding from Newton Fund Impact Scheme (2020, £150k) to pilot elements of the toolkit (train the trainers’ programme, mobile health clinic and sexual and reproductive health support services) in factories in Penang, Malaysia. Data collection as to the efficiency of the Interventions will enable them to refine the toolkit and disseminate it for use in factories more widely. In engaging with government, international migration and labour organisations, NGOs, unions, employer associations, factories and healthcare providers, they will explore further research avenues to meet the health needs of women migrant workers in other sectors.

Our projects in Colombia

Maria Granados has been awarded funding from the British Academy (2019-2020, £9k) to explore ‘Rebuilding lives as waste pickers: Struggles of Venezuelans in the Colombian informal economy’. She leads this project and works alongside Ainurul Rosli (Brunel University) and Manto Gotsi (Birkbeck, University of London).

Building on this theme, Maria has also been awarded a further grant (2020, £4k) from the University of Westminster Research Communities COVID-19 Funding Scheme to explore the impact of COVID-19 in the lives of Venezuelan migrants working in the informal economy in Colombia.

Our new project in the UK

In the UK, low-waged and low-skilled migrant workers face many welfare challenges (e.g. lack of access to health services, housing, social security) during the coronavirus pandemic.  Lilian Miles and Tim Freeman were awarded £10k (2020) by the University of Westminster Research Communities COVID-19 Funding Scheme to explore an approach to making policy-planning more inclusive to address these needs. Their project will take place over 12 months, starting August 2020.

Selected publications

  • Crinis, V., 2020. Sex Trafficking to the Federated Malay States 1920–1940: From Migration for Prostitution to Victim or Criminal?. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History48(2), pp.296-318. —- More details 
  • Crinis, V., 2019. Corporate social responsibility, human rights and clothing workers in Bangladesh and Malaysia. Asian studies review43(2), pp.295-312. —- More details
  • Miles, L., Lewis, S., Endut, N., Lai, W.T., Yasin, S. M., and Ying, K. (2018). A Toolkit for Women Migrant Workers’ Empowerment in Malaysia: Meeting Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs. Retrieved from Centre for Research on Women and Gender website: —- More details
  • Miles, L., Lewis, S., Teng, L.W. and Yasin, S.M., 2019. Advocacy for women migrant workers in Malaysia through an intersectionality lens. Journal of Industrial Relations61(5), pp.682-703. —- More details

Working papers

  • Tim Freeman, Lilian Miles, Kelvin Ying, Lai Wan Teng and Suziana Mat Yasin, “At the limits of ‘Capability’: The sexual and reproductive health of women migrant workers in Malaysia”
  • Tim Freeman, Lilian Miles, Kelvin Ying, Lai Wan Teng and Suziana Mat Yasin, “Empowerment Theory in Practice: The Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) of Women Migrant Workers in Malaysia”
  • Maria Granados, Ainurul Rosli and Manto Gotsi, “Rebuilding lives as waste pickers: Struggles of Venezuelans migrants in the Colombian informal economy”

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