Gender, Migration, & The Work of Care

Project Profiles Research Findings

Child Health and Migrant Parents in South-East Asia: Wave II

Project Lead

  • Brenda Yeoh


  • Elspeth Graham

  • Lucy Jordan


  • National University of Singapore

Students & Associates

International labour migration has become a part of livelihood strategies for millions of families across Asia, motivated partly by parents’ desire to improve life in the next generations. Yet relatively little research has been done on the impacts on children who stay behind when parents migrate for work.

Our first study surveyed several members of around 1,000 households in two provinces in both the Philippines and Indonesia. The next year, we conducted in-depth interviews with some of the children aged 3 – 5, and 9 – 11, and the people who care for these children in their fathers’, and/or increasingly their mothers’, absence due to labour migration. The interviews shed light on the nuanced experiences of those who stay behind, and enrich the statistical findings.

In this second study, we follow up with the same families, in order to look at change over time. What are the longer-term influences on children’s health and well-being of parental absence due to migration?

We look at physical health, psychological well-being, schooling, subjective happiness, and educational and economic attainments. We also investigate how left-behind family members organize gender roles; their emotional exchanges or social support; the characteristics of migration, such as which parent migrates, how long they’re gone, and when.

To our knowledge, no other study has examined the comparative impacts of parental migration on child health over time. Our project aims to help families, communities and government to understand better any vulnerabilities and risks that must be weighed against any material benefits of parental migration.

Refereed Publications

Somaiah, B.C., Yeoh, B.S.A. and Arlini, S.M. (forthcoming) “Cukup for me to be successful in this country”: “Staying” among left-behind young women in Indonesia’s migrant-sending villages. Global Networks.

Acedera, K.A. and B.S.A. Yeoh, ‘Making Time’: Long-distance Marriages and the Temporalities of the Transnational Family. Current Sociology, 67, no. 2 (2019): 250-272, doi: 10.1177/0011392118792927.

Lam, T. and B.S.A. Yeoh, Parental migration and disruptions in everyday life: reactions of left-behind children in Southeast Asia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, online first (2019), doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2018.1547022.

Yeoh, B.S.A., S. Huang and T. Lam, Migration, Families and Households in Globalising Asia. In Handbook on Geographies of Globalisations, edited by R.C. Kloosterman, V. Mamadouh and P. Terhorst, pp. 175-186. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing (2018).

Acedera, K., B.S.A. Yeoh and M.M.B. Asis, Migrant Mothers and Left-Behind Families: The Rituals of Communication and the Reconstitution of Familyhood Across Transnational Space and Time. In Transnational Migrations in the Asia-Pacific: Transformative Experiences in the Age of Digital Media, edited by C. Gomes, and B.S.A. Yeoh, pp. 153-174. London: Rowman and Littlefield (2018).

Acedera, K.A. and B.S.A. Yeoh, Facebook, Long-distance Marriages, and the Mediation of Intimacies. International Journal of Communication, 12 (2018): 4123-4142.