International labor migration has become a vital component in not only driving economic development for many Asian countries, but also in transforming traditional roles of parenting and caregiving practices for millions of children of migrant workers. While remittances, consistently sent home by migrant workers, are one of the highest sources of foreign exchange earnings for many countries, labor migration can also at times create a negative influence on health, break down family and social cohesion, and increase the burden on health systems.
This Issue in Brief from MPI and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) explores empirical evidence on the mental health and nutritional impacts of international labor migration on the left-behind children of migrant workers in Asia and describes a possible interventional framework that could be adapted by countries to mitigate health-related risks for these children. Current evidence from Asian countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) shows both negative and positive influences from parental migration on the mental health and nutritional status of such children. Results from a nationally representative study from Sri Lanka, however, suggest that socioemotional maladjustment and behavioral problems occur among children in the absence of a migrant worker parent, with two in every five shown to have mental disorders. In addition, left-behind children were shown to have higher levels of nutritional deficits compared to nonmigrant children.