Undercurrent Forces Beneath a Long-Standing Migration Corridor:

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Abstract

Workforce drought has become an alarming problem in most developed economies worldwide. Thailand—a regional economic leader in Southeast Asia—is a noteworthy example, facing labor shortages in several key industries. Rising demand for commercial and residential buildings in Thailand has triggered an overwhelming inflow of migrant workers in the construction industry, the majority of whom come from Myanmar. Within the context of a potential decline of Burmese workers due to local economic development in Myanmar and their dwindling interest in the Thai construction industry, this study investigates the migration decisions made by Burmese workers, examining not only why they come to Thailand but also why some industries are more attractive than others. Alderfer’s ERG theory was employed to address these questions and construct a more thorough analysis of migration decisions by inquiring into the interplay between safety, economic, social, and self-fulfillment needs. Data collection and analysis were based on a mixed-methods approach, drawing primarily from qualitative methods. Interviews and observations were the main instruments of data collection through several periods of fieldwork, both at the origin area and at the destination. The findings revealed that following the long course of ongoing migration, a myriad of social and economic conditions within migrant communities, coupled with changes in their perceptions, have encouraged further migration. While economic gains and safety were the earliest drives dominating migration decisions, remaining influential throughout the fieldwork period, other factors, including a sense of belonging, recognition, and personal worth, gradually expanded and reshaped the motivating forces for migration.