Sahib Anandsongvit had a problem: his family, who ran a boutique hotel business in Bangkok, constantly needed to find skilled workers to repair rooms, clean facilities, or perform other services on short notice. Traditionally, Thai small business owners looking for service providers have relied on word of mouth, or flyers pinned to trees and telephone poles around the city. But how can one be sure that the provider is trustworthy, and how can they be found quickly for emergency repairs? To address this problem, Sahib co-founded a new company called Seekster. Unlike a traditional business in this space, which might hire a fleet of service providers and pay them an hourly rate, Seekster took a “platform” approach. Without hiring a single provider directly, Sahib built an online marketplace where micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)—like his own family—can find, hire, and rate the services of independent cleaners, plumbers, pest exterminators, and air conditioner technicians who sign up on the platform. Businesses on Seekster get fast and high-quality services, while individual providers get immediate access to a customer base and can parlay good ratings into much higher and more reliable incomes. In fact, Seekster providers earn more than triple the minimum daily wage of 310 Baht (about $9). Across Asia, online platforms like Seekster—which leverage rapidly expanding mobile broadband and cloud computing services to facilitate transactions—have emerged as valuable tools for navigating the connected world. By 2020, over a billion people in the Asia-Pacific alone will be served by online platforms, and platform businesses are already active in sectors as diverse as finance, logistics, cross-border trade, talent acquisition, household services, and the traditional buying and selling of goods. Farmers in Indonesia are using platforms to access crop information from top universities, weather data from the Indonesian meteorological agency, and daily commodity prices from nearby markets. An unbanked bookseller in Gaya can conduct customer transactions, make purchases, and protect savings from financial shocks—all by using a local online payment platform. Through a local education platform, a gifted student living in a remote or rural area can access accredited university courses. And Asia’s… Read more
Over the past decade, Nepal has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of migrant laborers leaving the country to work abroad, and the majority are youth. This phenomenon has led to the exodus of a significant proportion of the country’s working-age population, with the remittances that they send back home making up nearly a third of the country’s GDP and credited for the significant reduction in poverty rates. Despite the continual rise in the number of people migrating for foreign employment and the growing body of research on Nepal’s remittance economy, there is a dearth of knowledge of the impact foreign labor migration has on the social and political dynamics at the local level. To fill this gap, The Asia Foundation just released a new study, “Labour Migration and the Remittance Economy,” that examines the implications of migration and remittance on social structures, including local institutions and democratic governance, and on political participation and political contestation. Fieldwork for the study was carried out in 10 locations in five districts—Panchthar, Dhanusha, Nawalparasi, Kaski, and Kailali—between April and June 2016, and surveyed 401 migrant and non-migrant households (HHs) during the first stage of the study, followed by 179 qualitative interviews and 19 focus group discussions in the second stage. The report is divided into six sections, with the introductory section describing the methodological approach and the research framework adopted for the study. Section two presents findings on the socioeconomic effects of migration and remittances, primarily at the household level. Section three focuses on how the changes observed at the household level may affect established societal relations, and lead to shifts in the political autonomy of migrants and their households. Section four examines the impact of migration on the political aspirations of young people and the emerging patterns of political participation among various migrant and non-migrant populations. Section five analyses the implications of migration on gender roles and women’s political participation. Section six concludes with the possible implications of the ongoing trajectories of migration on the broader socio-political transformations underway in Nepal. Looking ahead, the study points to areas that could be… Read more
Women’s participation in the Indian workforce has been dropping for the past decade, and stands now at 27 percent, one of the lowest rates among big economies. This documentary analyses the implications of traditional gender roles on women’s empowerment, and the ways women are fighting to change those norms. The film is produced by Laura Seoane and Kevin Jones, and features an in-depth interview with The Asia Foundation’s Mandakini D. Surie, senior program officer in India. Visit the filmmaker’s website for more information, and watch the documentary below. Women at Work from Laura Seoane on Vimeo.