Temporary Transformation of Thai New Middle Class into Lower Class in Labour Migration: A Case Study of Thai Technical Intern Trainees in Japan | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


The literature on the international migration of Thai workers, particularly unskilled labour during the 1970s and 1980s, emphasised the networks of family, relatives, and friends that enabled Thai workers’ migration and adaptation to life in host countries. Thai migrant workers throughout those periods were predominantly from the lower class with limited social capital. As a result, social networks played a critical role in the migratory process. However, there is an emerging trend of the Thai new middle class migrating to industrialised host countries as unskilled labourers. I argue that the need for temporary foreign labourers in host countries, together with the social capital of the Thai new middle class, results in a migratory pattern characterised by the temporary downward mobility of migrants’ social strata. By examining a case study of Thai workers in Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) who were employed temporarily by Japanese companies in 3D (dangerous, durable, dirty) jobs, this study illustrates the migratory pattern of young adults from rural Thailand who became unskilled workers in Japan. Social capital plays a critical role in this trend of migration for the new middle class. The role of social networks is lessened and partially replaced by an official migratory system organised by both sending and receiving countries. This study highlights the importance of transnationally considering migrants’ social strata to gain a better understanding of their migratory patterns.


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