Some of the effects of Imperialism on the countries of Southeast Asia were the transfer of a significant amount of wealth out of the region, a shifting of the region's labor focus away from agriculture to the production of commodity exports and the area's formerly self-contained economy becoming dangerously vulnerable to shifting worldwide price and demand fluctuations. Millions of Southeast Asian lives were altered by the economic and environmental changes that took place as a result of the natural resource and animal life balances that were rearranged and upset by the extensive colonial enterprises taking place in the region. Huge numbers of laborers also migrated into Southeast Asia, particularly from India and China, and changed preexisting ethnic, social and religious demographics.
Prior to the expansion of the colonial powers into Southeast Asia, the region was the economic equal of Europe. One of the effects of Imperialism, however, was a new economic dependence on the nations of the West until the mid-1900s. Colonial rule also helped fuel nationalistic movements and struggles for self-determination in the region.
The development of export economies, which survived past the end of Imperialism, was a factor in the area's post-World War II growth. After independence, the ideas and concepts of the nation-state, courts of law and a centralized bureaucracy that were learned from the Imperial powers contributed to the rapid economic development of Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.