Perceptions of health and coping strategies among temporary migrant workers in East and Southeast Asia: a systematic review

Margo Louise Turnbull, Nok Hang Ching, Wing Man Yu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The rate of international migration for the primary purpose of employment has increased exponentially in recent decades. A significant proportion of this global movement takes place across East and Southeast Asia as workers move on a temporary basis from lower-middle-income home countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to high-income host destinations including Hong Kong and Singapore. Relatively little is known about the unique and long-term health needs of this heterogeneous group of people. This systematic review presents an analysis of recent research into the experiences and perceptions of health of temporary migrant workers in the East and Southeast Asian regions. Methods: Five electronic databases CINAHL Complete (via EbscoHost), EMBASE (including Medline), PsycINFO (via ProQuest), PubMed and Web of Science, were systematically searched for qualitative or mixed methods, peer-reviewed literature published in print or online between January 2010 and December 2020. Quality of the studies was assessed using the Critical Appraisal Checklist for Qualitative Research published by the Joanna Briggs Institute. Findings from the included articles were extracted and synthesised using qualitative thematic analysis. Results: Eight articles were included in the review. Findings from this review indicate that multiple dimensions of workers’ health is impacted by the processes of temporary migration. In addition, the research reviewed indicated that migrant workers used various strategies and mechanisms to attempt to address their health-related issues and to take better care of themselves. Such agentic practices could help them manage and maintain their health and wellbeing across physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions within the structural constraints of their employment. Conclusions: Limited published research has focused on the health perceptions and needs of temporary migrant workers in East and Southeast Asia. The studies included in this review focused on female migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines. These studies provide valuable insights but do not reflect the heterogeneity of migrants moving within these regions. The findings of this systematic review highlight that temporary migrant workers experience high and sustained levels of stress and are exposed to certain health risks which may compromise long-term health outcomes. These workers demonstrate knowledge and skills in managing their own health. This suggests that strength-based approaches to health promotion interventions may be effective in optimising their health over time. These findings are relevant to policy makers and non-government organisations supporting migrant workers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2023


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