Labour Migration in ASEAN: A Misguided Quest

Author: Savanhnaxai Seasouvan

Seasouvan, Savanhnaxai, 2017 Labour Migration in ASEAN: A Misguided Quest, Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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A cluster of independent states namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam together form the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). As a group, the members of ASEAN have the potential to increase their bargaining power in the international community. For this reason, in 2015 ASEAN decided to establish the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in order to exercise this potential and bring the member states closer together in a prosperous community. In order to achieve such an ambitious aspiration, as proposed by the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN agreed to facilitate the freer movement of skilled labour and professionals alongside the freer movement of services, capital, and investment. Ideally, the free movement of labour and capital would help narrow regional demographic and economic disparities.. However, the AEC proposal gained unequal and uneven support from ASEAN members because they had differing perceptions about the benefits that would flow to them. The thesis will argue that the ASEAN attempts to facilitate economic integration through the movement of skilled labour and professionals seems unrealistic because such labour represents a minor proportion of regional labour mobility, while semi- and low-skilled labour accounts for the majority share. In order to accelerate regional economic integration, ASEAN should focus on incorporating semi- and low-skilled labour, even in the form of temporary contracts. Semi- and low-skilled labour can in fact make a significant contribution to developing countries in terms of absorbing surplus labour, and national economic development.

Keywords: Skilled labour, semi-skilled labour, low-skilled labour, demographic disparity, economic divide, labour migration.

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Associate Professor Michael Barr