A decision by ASEAN leaders to build an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. There will be one heart, one ASEAN. It will closely resemble the European Union and is expected to open up a free flow of investment, capital and skilled labour to provide deeper regional economic integration.
Labour experts and national officials agree that the gains will be far greater than the losses, especially for Viet Nam. Carmela Torres, from the Bangkok-based International Labour Organisation, says that as Viet Nam’s wages are neither the highest nor the lowest in ASEAN, there will be a movement of workers both into and out of the country.
Vietnamese travelling to the other ASEAN nations (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, Philippines and Brunei) will receive higher pay for their abilities, says Torres.
Le Quang Trung, deputy director of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ employment bureau – a Government body handling labour matters – is also upbeat. “Skilled labourers will also have a wider variety of choices,” he says.
He also envisages advantages from the inflow. “The arrival of foreign workers will provide many more opportunities in trade, investment and employment, new knowledge and advanced technology,” he says. “This will help raise the quality of domestic labour.”
However, obstacles are also anticipated. All parties acknowledge that Viet Nam is grappling with a bundle of challenges. These include a shortage of highly-skilled labourers and the extreme shortage of Vietnamese speaking foreign languages.
According to an International Labour Organisation report on Labour and Social Trends in ASEAN 2010, there is a great variation in the levels of labour productivity within the region. The report indicates that output per worker in 2009 in Viet Nam was about 7 and 20 per cent of that in Singapore and Malaysia respectively.
“It’s clear that without good preparation, domestic labourers will face problems given their low productivity,” admits Trung from the labour ministry. However, of all the concerns, language barrier is recognised as the biggest.
“Without a foreign language, or English, they find it difficult to access new knowledge, which is a barrier to integration,” he says, adding that this problem is facing the whole nation.
Additionally, Viet Nam has ratified, or plans to ratify, several international conventions on employment, job services, wages and vocational training. Apart from newly-endorsed strategies on human resources, education and training, Trung says that the labour ministry is rushing to submit to the Government another one, part of it is on joining a single ASEAN labour market.
He says that existing laws governing the inflow or outflow of workers will be applied after 2015 unless new agreements are made within the bloc. Trung believes that Viet Nam is shaping a healthy and transparent labour market to lure the best domestic and foreign talent.
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ASEAN will open up to Vietnam skills , VietnamNetBridge, Oct 27, 2012
The ASEAN BluePrint 2015 provides for “Free Flow of Skilled Labour” as follows:
“A5. Free flow of skilled labour
“33. In allowing for managed mobility or facilitated entry for the movement of natural persons engaged in trade in goods, services, and investments, according to the prevailing regulations of the receiving country, ASEAN is working to:
“Action: 1. Facilitate the issuance of visas and employment passes for ASEAN professionals and skilled labour who are engaged in cross-border trade and investment related activities.”
Source: ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2015, page 17 of the pdf file (page 15 of the numbered pages)