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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    20 July 2012

AEC worries for youth of Laos


Final year university students are very concerned about job security in Laos once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is established in 2015, allowing the free flow of labour within member nations.

They worry that the good jobs available in the country will be taken by skillful workers from other countries including Singapore and the Philippines.

Meantime more Lao labourers could be forced to leave their country to seek employment in neighbouring Thailand.

A senior Lao economist Dr Liber Libuapao from the National Economic Research Institute said that the government needs to focus more on the quality of the education system in Laos so that the graduates do not lose out from the regional integration.

"We need to focus more on the quality of the education, not just the quantity. We need to be strict in exams and crack down on the process of buying certificates as part of producing qualified graduates to compete with those in other Asean countries," he said.

Vice President of the National University of Laos, Associate Prof Dr Phetsamone Khounsavath, said recently that Laos needs to improve English skills in the country to develop its human resources.

He said the government has introduced English into the curriculum from the third grade of primary school to allow Lao children the chance to study the language when they are young but the implementation of the project mostly takes place in urban areas.

"Our English skill is not good right now," Dr Phetsamone said, saying that his university planned to introduce a programme where English is taught in various faculties to enhance the English skills of all university students.

"The challenge is that many Lao people don't like to read and we need to change this mindset."

The Asean Economic Community will provide challenges and opportunities for Laos but a brain drain is possible. Many more Lao people may go out to find jobs in other countries while skillful workers from other countries may come to work in Laos to cover the shortfall.

Dr Liber said the most important thing for Laos is to improve labour management to ensure the inflow of foreign workers contributes to economic growth. A lack of labour management could result in social disorder with more criminals, drug abuse and trafficking, and other problems.

Another concern was that the free flow of foreign labour could impact on the traditional culture and ways of life for Lao people.

But the opportunity is that Lao people can learn from the lessons and experiences of others. There will be more transfer of knowledge and technology in the country as regional integration proceeds.

Asean – Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines – is a market of nearly 600 million people.

The main objective of the AEC is to create a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.

The AEC will allow the free flow of goods, services, capital, investment and skilled labour within member countries.

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