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What is ASEAN?  Why is ASEAN 2015 so important?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a community of ten countries in Southeast Asia, formed on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Newer members are Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. ASEAN aims to promote economic growth and development, as well as regional peace and stability.

600 million people, 8.8% of the world's population, live in ASEAN nations, with a combined GDP of around $2 trillion. If ASEAN were a single entity, it would rank as the ninth largest economy in the world.

A key part of ASEAN 2015 is a proposal that people with skills should be able to move freely from one nation to another without need for work permits or special visas.

This is a huge step which is likely to have much larger impact on economic growth of countries like Vietnam than many have yet realized.

Such freedoms of movement have existed in other parts of the world and it is vital to learn from what happened.

Take the UK, which expected around 5,000 new migrant workers to enter the country each year following 10 new countries joining the EU.  The reality was that over a million people arrived from Poland alone during the first three years.

Free labour movement means that people move to areas of higher income.  So it could mean, for example, that a nation in Asia loses 25% of all doctors and nurses over a decade, to work in a neighbouring nation with better funded health care, and a more vibrant private health sector.

One nation may gain engineers, and lose lawyers.  History shows that labour costs tend to fall in nations which gain migrants, and rise in nations losing its workforce.

So any nation signing up to the full ASEAN 2015 provisions will need to be reasonably certain that wages, employment rights and benefits will be competitive with other ASEAN nations.  If there is doubt about this, it may be necessary to create a levy of some kind to reimburse the loser nation for loss of resources.

Take for example a nation that invests heavily in expanding a medical and nursing school, with heavily subsidized or free education, where it turns out most trainees rapidly take up jobs in other nations.

A nation could fill all its own training needs simply by offering higher salaries to people whose training has been paid for elsewhere.  This is grossly unfair and unsustainable but is exactly what has been happening over the last decade in Africa, with large scale recruitment of African doctors and nurses to fill posts in European hospitals.

* What do YOU think about allowing free movement of people between nations?  Do comment below.

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Thanks for promoting with Facebook LIKE or Tweet. Really interested to read your views. Post below.

Ajit Nandayal
February 20, 2013 - 12:14

One key benefit to the source countries from where people move out is that they benefit from the huge remittances sent by the people abroad.

Join the Debate! What are your own views?



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