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The emerging transnational “retirement industry” in Southeast Asia

Mika Toyota (College of Tourism, Rikkyo University, Saitama, Japan)
Biao Xiang (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 19 October 2012




This article aims to explain how a transnational “retirement industry” in Southeast Asia has emerged recently as a result of interplays between various national and transnational forces, particularly in the domain of elderly care. “Retirement industry” refers to business operations related to the relocation of foreign retirees, primarily Japanese pensioners, who seek affordable social care and alternative retirement life.


This paper is based on extensive documentary studies and multi‐sited ethnographic research from 2004 to date. In‐depth interviews with retirees and relevant agencies were carried out in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.


This article delineates how demographic and economic changes in Japan create demand for the transnational retirement industry, and how Southeast Asian countries actively promote the industry as a national development strategy. As such the boundaries between nation‐state and between the market and the state are simultaneously crossed. The industry opens new transnational routes and spaces and thus further complicates the transnationalization of elderly care in Asia.


Current research on social welfare remains dominated by methodological nationalism, and this article calls attention to the transnational dimension in understanding recent changes in social care. By engaging the predominant paradigm of “care diamond”, the article shows that how boundaries shift between various care providers within nation states is inextricably related to how borders are crossed between nation states.



Toyota, M. and Xiang, B. (2012), "The emerging transnational “retirement industry” in Southeast Asia", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 32 No. 11/12, pp. 708-719.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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