MANILA — The World Bank (WB) has called for eased restrictions on labor migration to boost workers’ welfare and accelerate regional economic integration saying other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members could adopt the Philippine support system for its migrant workers.
Released on Monday, a WB report, titled ‘Migrating to Opportunity’, said, “The highly-developed support system for migrant labor in the Philippines can serve as a model for other countries, however, the country should continue its focus on improving reintegration of returning migrants.”
It cited the Philippines as good example of migration systems with “clearly defined institutional responsibilities”.
The report said several migrant-focused agencies are housed mostly within the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Their roles and responsibilities are well defined, with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency responsible mainly for managing migration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration responsible mainly for protecting migrants.
To build on this status, the WB said the Philippines should continue to evaluate and improve its migration management system, including oversight of recruitment agencies, programs for returned migrants, and data sharing and interoperability.
Meanwhile, the WB report also underscored the need to relax migration procedures across ASEAN region, as migration is expected to increase with the regional economic integration.
The ASEAN Economic Community, which was launched in 2015, aims to promote the free mobility of professionals and skilled workers within the region.
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 constrain workers’ employment options and impact their welfare.
“No matter where workers wish to migrate in the ASEAN, they face mobility costs several times the annual average wage. Improvements in the migration process can ease these costs on prospective migrants, and help countries respond better to their labor market needs.”
-Mauro Testaverde, WB Economist for the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, lead author of the WB report
The report noted the impact of labor mobility on the region’s economies can be significant, as migration could provide individuals from lower-income countries with the opportunity to increase their incomes.
About US$62 billion in remittances were sent to ASEAN countries in 2015. Remittances account for 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Philippines, 7 percent in Vietnam, 5 percent in Myanmar, and 3 percent in Cambodia.
Testaverde further said better policies can lower the barriers to labor mobility, noting some of these include improving the governance of the migration system, reforming domestic policies, and balancing protection and economic development in the migration process.
Source: Leslie Gatpolintan, PNA