Asean integration won’t improve Pinoys’ access to job markets in the region
The economic integration in Southeast Asia is not expected to help improve Filipinos’ access to overseas job markets within the region, but will instead further encourage skilled workers to go farther afield, according to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop).
Donald G. Dee, acting president of Ecop, told members of the Philippine Bar Association last Wednesday the deployment of overseas Filipino workers would go as usual even if the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Framework Agreement on Services provided a mandate for mutual regional arrangements (MRAs).
The framework and the MRAs are intended to facilitate the free flow of skilled labor in Asean while taking into account relevant domestic regulations and market demand conditions.
Currently, the 10-member trading bloc has concluded eight MRAs, each covering engineers, nurses, architects, land surveyors, medical doctors, dentists, accountants, and tourism professionals.
Dee noted that, in total, there were only 1,252 engineers listed in the Asean Chartered Professional Engineers Register and 284 architects in the Asean Architect Register.
“It was evident from these MRAs that Asean integration does not open a gateway for the free flow of the Philippine workforce to the other nations,” he said. “Much less would there be an inflow of workers from the other nations.”
To complicate matters, Dee said Filipinos seeking work elsewhere in the region must first be recruited for job openings available in a particular Asean country, and subject as usual to the issuance of a working permit or visa.
“As of 2014, there were a little over 200,000 OFWs deployed to the eight Asean countries with Singapore accepting the highest number, at 140,205,” Dee said.
Completing the top three intra-regional destination of land-based OFWs were Malaysia with 31,451 and Brunei with 11,748.
The bottom three were Vietnam (4,082), Laos, (1,435) and Burma or Myanmar (1,218).
“[The] MRAs covering the eight services would only exacerbate the drain of Filipino professionals, technicians and other skilled labor to the more developed nations in need of their services,” he added.
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