ADB urges improvementin skills mobility in Asean

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The improvement of skills mobility in ASEAN is needed to address the potential shortage or mismatch of skilled workers that may arise due to the onset of the fourth industrial revolution, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

“By 2025, an estimated almost 26 million high-skill jobs will be filled by people who don’t have the necessary qualifications in six large ASEAN member countries, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam,” ADB economist Elisabetta Gentile said in a media roundtable yesterday.

Gentile said the immediate solution to this problem is skills mobility, which the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is currently recognizing through the implementation of mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) for various industries.

“So if you have professionals who are in surplus in one country or in one region, they move to another area where there is a shortage of people with the same professional requirement,” she said.

Gentile said this practice can already be seen in other parts of the world.

“We want to establish this at a regional level,” she said.

Despite the implementation of the ASEAN MRAs for various industries, Gentile pointed out that barriers remain to skills mobility in the region.

“It is still quite a rigid system that doesn’t easily allow the regional labor market to respond to the needs of the ever evolving skills demand,” she said.

“We want to increase skills mobility but we have  a plethora of barriers in place that makes is easier for skilled workers to leave the region rather than to circulate within the region. This is something we need to address if we are serious about skills mobility in ASEAN,” the ADB economist said.

In the ADB’s Skilled Labor Mobility and Migration report, authored by Gentile, she added that restrictions under the MRAs such as stricter work visa requirements are making it easier for skilled workers to migrate to other parts of the world instead of within the region.

She said ASEAN needs a preferential work-based immigration system for its citizens.

Gentile emphasized skilled workers in the ASEAN need an enabling environment to make the most efficient use of their skills. 

“That is why we believe skills mobility remains strategically important to support ASEAN growth and inclusiveness,” she said.

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