MANILA — Other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members can adopt the Philippine support system for its migrant workers, the World Bank (WB) said, as it called on easing restric-tions on labor migration to boost workers’ welfare and accelerate regional eco-nomic integration.
“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 reinte-gration of returning migrants,” said a WB report, titled Migrating to Opportunity, released on Monday.
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 respon-sibilities are well defined, with the Philippine Over-seas 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, inclu-ding oversight of recruit-ment agencies, programs for returned migrants, and data sharing and intero-perability.
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 ASEAN, they face mobility costs several times the annual average wage. Improve-ments in the migration process can ease these costs on pros-pective migrants, and help countries respond better to their labor market needs,”said WB Economist for the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice Mauro Testaverde, the lead author of the 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. PNA