Asean Economic Community

ACE Wishlist: Make it better for people

JAKARTA • Last December, Asean launched its own Asean Community. Tariffs and non-tariff barriers between the 10 member countries have been gradually reduced. Investors and Asean nationals have been promised freer flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labour.

(But) there are several disconnects between Asean's aspirations and reality. Only skilled labour migration is promoted through Asean. Targeted at eight professions, they are negligible as a proportion of its total employment. Most of the regional labour migration will continue to comprise the low- and medium-skilled.

More often than not, migrants do not receive similar treatment for healthcare and social security. The possibility of working abroad raises a question on how - or rather, where - one should save for retirement. One could take part in the host country's pension scheme. What about contributing to one's national social security scheme? Except for the Philippines, no other Asean country has provisions for its overseas workers under its social security schemes.

Focusing on the social is part and parcel of regional integration. Asean still lags behind other blocs with established multilateral social security agreements. It is high time it moves towards the promised "people-centred and socially responsible" Asean community.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'Make it better for people'. Print Edition | Subscribe