Migrant workers are an integral part of the ASEAN Community, contributing to the economic and social development of both their countries of origin and destination. However, they also face many challenges and risks, such as exploitation, discrimination, and lack of access to social protection. To address these issues, ASEAN has placed the well-being of migrant workers high on its policy agenda.
The ASEAN region’s population of 634 million accounts for 8.85 per cent of the world’s total. It is also the source of millions of migrant workers, who seek employment in countries within the region and beyond. According to the ASEAN Migration Outlook, which was launched in 2022, the ASEAN region has around nine million working-age international migrants, with the large majority being intra-ASEAN migrants.
In the Philippines, there are almost 1.8 million registered migrant workers, more commonly called OFWs or Overseas Filipino Workers. The country is one of the world’s largest sources of migrant labour. At its international airports, scenes of tearful goodbyes are often seen—children crying out for their fathers or mothers, parents seeing off their adult children—as loved ones leave for jobs overseas. It may be years until they get reunited. For many, the separation is a difficult choice but a pragmatic one. Two migrant families share their stories with The ASEAN.
With a market size of 2.3 trillion US dollars, ASEAN has solidified its position as the third-largest economy in Asia and the fifth-largest globally. Large-scale recruitment of migrant labour is integral to economic development and will increase even more as the region’s economies grow and contribute to global value chains (GVCs). Migrant workers are part of the 75 million workers in ASEAN who are employed in GVCs, accounting for more than 25 per cent of total employment in the region.
Philippine Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, who serves as ALMM Chair, discusses two new ASEAN declarations that champion the rights and welfare of migrant workers and their families. He also describes a Philippine-led public campaign to raise awareness on safe and fair migration in the ASEAN region. Secretary Laguesma also shares some of the Philippines’ recent initiatives to assist its migrant workers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the creation of an online platform to track their repatriation, provision of various forms of assistance, and the establishment of a new department for migrant workers.
Women in ASEAN in the Era of Digitalisation: Facing Challenges and Seizing Opportunities
The celebration of Women’s Month this year resonated deeply with the priorities and commitments of ASEAN to forge ahead with gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. In the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) to ASEAN, we celebrated Women’s Month by citing that parity has been achieved with 50 per cent of current membership now being women.
The ASEAN region has made progress in many sectors, but challenges remain, especially in the area of girls’ and women’s access to health and education.
Meryana (not her real name) is a 12-year old girl from Noinbila, a small village in South Central Timor Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. This year, she had to give up on her dream of going to junior high school. Due to economic hardships exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, her parents could only send one of their children to school, Meryana’s older brother, Ronald (not his real name).
The 2022 ASEAN SDG Snapshot Report highlighted ASEAN’s progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to the pandemic, the region is likely to fall short on Goal 1 on ending poverty and Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth.
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