ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
ASEAN urged to ease rules on foreign labor
Experts have urged Southeast Asian countries to ease regulations on the exchange of workers across the region, arguing that the cross-border placement of skilled human resources would boost growth in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
Asian Development Bank (ADB) senior economist Guntur Sugiyarto said most ASEAN countries maintained a protectionist stance on foreign employees, which would hamper the exchange of skills in the upcoming single market.
“In order to have [cross-border] mobility of good skills, policymakers and private institutions need to participate to make it happen,” he said on Friday during an ADB forum titled “Maximizing growth and shared prosperity under the AEC by progressing on skills mobility”.
He added governments needed to reform regulations to attain reciprocal benefits among ASEAN members, while professional associations needed to expedite the creation of a regional certification framework under the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA).
Meanwhile, Indonesian Professional Certification Authority (BNSP) chairman Sumarna F. Abdurrahman said Manpower Ministry Regulation No. 35/2015 on the employment of foreign workers stipulated that companies in Indonesia have to pay a yearly US$1200 for each foreigner hired.
“[Many] regulations still show that the country is being too protective of the local labor market. [Labor] policies also ban foreigners from certain positions in an organization,” he said.
Guntur said Indonesia did not need to worry about easing its policies regarding foreign workers, because the AEC, as a single market and production base, would open a huge labor market for at least seven million unemployed Indonesians of productive age.
“If a country welcomes foreign workers from its neighbor, the neighbor will do the same. It’s always reciprocal,” he said.
“So for Indonesia, where manpower growth exceeds population growth, it’s very important for us to have new work fields outside the country,” the economist added.
Compared to Indonesia, Thailand has an older population, the highest proportion of high-aged people next to Singapore in the region, according to Yongyuth Chalamwong from the Thailand Development Research Institute.
“Thailand also has some protectionist policies, but it needs to change, as we need younger manpower to boost productivity and the economy to help us get out of the middle-income trap to become a developed country,” Yongyuth said.
Guntur explained that the key to success for the regional economic community was shared prosperity coming from a single market and production base.
“We used to fear global markets [and] foreign direct investment policies, which now turn out to bring faster growth for us,” he said.
Data from the ADB and the International Labor Organization from an AEC simulation, in which all country members adopt very open foreign labor policies, shows that the ASEAN area’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate would rise to seven percent and also benefit each country.
Philippines’ Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) member Angeline Chua Chiaco, meanwhile, pointed out the important role of professional associations in completing the regional certification framework on the agreed professions. --The Jakarta Post
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