Thailand, Malaysia top job destinations

Thailand and Malaysia are prime destinations for millions of migrant workers from mainland Asean countries, as job opportunities and a stronger economy provide a better quality of life, according to report released yesterday by the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The ILO’s “Risk and Rewards: Outcomes of labour migration in Southeast Asia” report, however warned about the problem of unskilled labour coming into the country by exploiting loopholes and discrepancies in the system.

Undocumented labourers enter both nations with the help of unscrupulous agents.

The report reflects the reality in Asean and especially in both countries where migrant labour becomes part of the driving force of their economies. According to the ILO, migration is increasing within Asean but its outcomes might not be well understood. Moreover, regulations and a system to protect against an influx of illegal labourers have been insufficient.

One of issues is a lack of accurate data. Most information about migrant labourers from the ILO and the World Bank only provide numbers of legally documented workers.

However, the director of academic affairs at the Asean Studies Centre, Piti Srisangnam, said he believes the number of undocumented workers without permits might be much higher than previously thought.

Apart from the lack of data, Mr Piti also pointed out other loopholes.

He referred to an example of migrants from Laos who obtain one-month tourist visas to camouflage working illegally in Thailand before returning home and repeating the process.

Blue-collar jobs for Thais continue to be under threat by illegal migrant workers who are willing to be financially abused by bosses with their employment opportunities constantly being “held hostage”, he said.

“We already have the Asean Mutual Recognition Arrangements and the agreement on Movement of Natural Persons which supports skilled labour across the region. However, irregular channels for migration are not thoroughly controlled and have many loopholes” Mr Piti said.

Regulatory frameworks have been poorly enforced which has led to a staggering 67% of migrants being considered unskilled in Thailand and Malaysia,he said.