RGS Conference Paper

Governing Lifestyle Migration in East Asia: The Promotion and Regulation of Western Migration in Thailand and Malaysia 

Kate Botterill and Karen O’Reilly

As an introduction to the session on Lifestyle Migration and the state this paper considers how lifestyle migration, as Caroline Oliver (2012) suggests ‘occupies a place at the least regulated end of the continuum’ in relation to the governance of migration’. Using analysis of empirical fieldwork with Western lifestyle migrants living in Thailand and Malaysia, the paper discusses the patchwork governance of lifestyle migration in these states. We argue that national policies and programmes to promote lifestyle migration in East Asia are delegitimized by variable regulatory practice across different scales (local, national and transnational) and in particular places. As such, there are differentiated outcomes of lifestyle migration for Westerners in these states with varied perceptions and experiences of intra-state and trans-state practices. Moreover, the impacts of global financial crises has led to further unpredictable outcomes for lifestyle migrants, with exchange rate differentials causing a material decline in income, particularly among those of pensionable age with frozen (home-) state pensions. The paper concludes by supporting Oliver’s (2012) position and re-asserting a call for further discussion on the desirability and practice of lifestyle migration governance at different scales.

 

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