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ASEAN regional integration: challenges and opportunities

9th-10th July 2014

Phuket, Thailand

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A training course for ASEAN representatives, sponsored by the International Labour Organization and Canadian International Development Agency organised by the ILO Regional Office for Asia and in cooperation with the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITCILO), and the ASEAN Secretariat on 9th-10th July 2014 in Phuket, Thailand.

ASEAN member states have committed to removing all barriers to the cross-border movement of goods and services in the region by 2015. The ASEAN region, which has a combined population of 550million and GDP of US$ 2.2 trillion, will become a single market. This will have far-reaching consequences on its economic development, its capital and labour markets, and the structure and competitiveness of its industries.

Coordinating policies to facilitate the cross-border movementof the region's skilled workforce, and ensuring adequate social protection for all national and foreign workers is a key challenge. This course aims to facilitate an understanding of the challenges and opportunities likely to be faced in regulating labour migration in the context of economic integration in ASEAN, drawing where appropriate, on the experience of regional harmonization in the European Union.

Seminar aims

  • To enhance understanding of the implications of economic integration on migration and labourpolicies;
  • To equip senior government officials workingon migration issues in ASEAN countries with analytical skills and knowledge of relevant international experience which can contribute to sound national policies and practices on immigration and emigration;
  • To provide participants an opportunity tocritically analyse and discuss contemporarylabour migration issues in ASEAN countries, and review the appropriateness of current approaches in the light of international experience;
  • To share experiences with peer officials from European institutions dealing with economic integration on migration and labour policies.
  • To provide the opportunity for high-level officials to undertake a short, intensive period of study and reflection


Participation was open to all 10 ASEAN governments, but restricted to Senior Ranking Officials (Permanent Secretary,Director, Deputy Director, or equivalent). In
addition, the seminar brought together regional employers’ and workers’ organizations and ILO staff.

• 20 ASEAN Senior government officials
• 2 regional employers’ representatives
• 2 regional trade union representatives
• 2 ASEAN Secretariat officials
• 1 representative from a regional civil society organization
• ILO staff

Seminar outline

Day 1 – Fundamental issues in labour migration

Sessions on this opening day offered high level analysis of social, economic and political issues to be taken into account when considering international labour immigration.

Sessions covered:

  • Enabling mobility, ensuring rights – This session made an evaluation of the tradeoffs involved in labour migration and identify the different interests. Is it possible to balance the different interests: that of migrant and national workers, employers, states of origin and destination; to have a rights’ based approach to labour migration and have increased mobility?The second part of session 1 focussed on EU enlargement and labour migration; labour migration of third country nationals, and EC directives on labour migration. What lessons can be drawn for regional integration in the ASEAN?
  • Lessons to be learnt from EU regional harmonization and its application to ASEAN - This session focussed on labour market integration, skills recognition, regional employment services and regional economic impacts of labour migration.

Day 2 – Labour migration policy and its implementation

This session focussed on labour market integration, skills recognition, regional employment services and regional economic impacts of labour migration.

Four sessions covered:

  • Regulating labour immigration – This session presented evidence around the following questions: what are the effects of labour emigration on origin countries of the region? Is there a tension between states promoting labour emigration and ensuring suitable protections for their citizens abroad? What is the impact of emigration procedures on protection and labour mobility? What are sound practices and how can states of origin and destination cooperate to more effectively regulate recruitment agencies?
  • Regulating labour emigration – This session presented practical examples around key policy questions such as: what are the effects of labour immigration in labour-receiving countries in Europe? How are these effects shaped by intra EU mobility? How are efforts to link the admission of migrant workers to the needs of the domestic labour market working? What have been the methods and data-sources to assess labour market requirements for foreign workers and generate shortage occupation lists?
  • Gender perspectives on migration – This session looked at the gender dimensions of migration and development, as overseas employment opportunities are often gender specific. What policy responses provide protection to migrants who are in vulnerable situations and occupations?
  • The road to the ASEAN Community 2015: The final session discussed the progress towards the ASEAN Community 2015