Easing migration policies can boost workers' welfare
Published on: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
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Kuala Lumpur: Easing curbs on labour migration policies can boost workers' welfare and economic growth in Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), said a World Bank report.In a statement Monday, it said, intra-regional migration in Asean increased significantly between 1995 and 2015, turning Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand into regional migration hubs with 6.5 million migrants.

"The figure represents 96 per cent of the total number of migrant workers in Asean, as stated by the 'Migrating to Opportunity' report," it said.

World Bank Chief Economist for the East Asia and Pacific region, Sudhir Shetty, said the Asean Economic Community had taken steps to facilitate the migrant's mobility, but the regulations only covered certain skilled professions, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, architects, accountants and tourism professionals, or just five per cent of jobs in the region.

"With the right policy choices, the home countries can reap the economic benefits from the out-migration, while protecting their migrating citizens.

"Foreign workers can fill labour shortages and promote sustained economic growth in receiving countries, if migration policies are aligned with their economic needs. Inappropriate policies and ineffective institutions mean that the region is missing opportunities to gain fully from migration," he said.

The report said barriers such as costly and lengthy recruitment processes, restrictive quotas on the number of foreign workers allowed in a country, and rigid employment policies restricts workers' employment options and impacts their welfare.

These restrictive policies were partly influenced by the perception that an influx of migrants would have negative impacts on receiving economies, it said.

"However, there is evidence to the contrary. In Malaysia, simulations find that a 10 per cent net increase in low-skilled immigrant workers increases real gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.1 per cent, while Thailand's GDP would fall by 0.75 per cent without migrants in the labour force," it said.

The World Bank said that a range of policies could be implemented to enhance workers' mobility, adding that there should be more supervision of recruitment agencies across the region.

It said Malaysia could adjust its migration policies to the country's economic needs, including revising its current levy system and deepening coordination with sending countries. – Bernama



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