The formation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 is predicted to create demand for fourteen million new jobs in Southeast Asia, according to the International Labor Organization. (ILO). The ILO said that the free movement of labor, investment, services and exports is expected to be a strong driver of employment for all ASEAN member nations.

“The AEC could accelerate economic growth and structural change and double productivity in some ASEAN economies, while generating 14 million additional jobs and creating new opportunities for prosperity for hundreds of millions of people,” said the organization in a statement.

The ILO cited a study that it conducted with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which concluded that by 2015, high skilled jobs are expected to grow in ASEAN by 41%, or 14 million, while 12 million low skilled jobs and 38 million medium-skilled jobs will be created.

However, the ILO warned that mismanagement of the ASEAN Economic Community could cause widening income inequality and make other existing problems, such as informal employment and poor working conditions, even worse. “The report predicts that skills shortages and skills mismatches are likely to worsen, due to inadequate availability and quality of education and training”.

The organization then asked all ASEAN member nations to promote inclusive and fair development. It said that if countries wish to benefit from labor mobility, they will need to ratify and enforce more international conventions, extend social security coverage, and implement the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Other priorities that the ILO report mentioned are support for small businesses, better management of structural changes, stronger labor market institutions, more regional cooperation, enhanced social protection, more effective processes to recognize worker skills, and closer ties between the labor market and education system.

“Ultimately, ASEAN’s plan for greater regional integration will be judged on how much it benefits ordinary working men and women in the region. Policy makers must not miss this opportunity to ensure the benefits of the region’s impressive development are enjoyed by all”, said the ILO.

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