In ASEAN, the main migrant-senders are the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. They are all developing states that are agriculture-reliant. Research shows that there is a lack of appropriate policies, institutions and mechanisms facilitating migrant outflow and reintegration of return migrants in these countries. This does not correspond to their level of dependence on remittances. Relative to GDP, Laos receives 0.73% remittance; Indonesia – 0.9%; Myanmar – 1.05%; Cambodia – 1.76%; Vietnam – 6.7%; and the Philippines – 10.58%. Though remittances fluctuate from month to month, in the long-term there is potential for sustained increase. Remittances are contributions to economic growth and they should be facilitated, not discouraged by inefficient and inadequate policies and institutions.
Bilateral MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) that exist are overly procedural and are not comprehensive or exhaustive. Legislative frameworks are weak and there is a lack of institutions dedicated to the management of emigrants. Unlicensed middlemen in the recruitment process further weaken regulation. There is inadequate protection for emigrants. Though the Philippines and Indonesia have various institutions facilitating migrant outflow at different stages, coordination among these institutions is insufficient. This lengthens the emigration process. Protection mechanisms in Indonesia lack enforcement authority. Despite the presence of protection mechanisms in the Philippines, its emigrant domestic workers are subjected to abuse in receiving states.
Myanmar and Vietnam have specialized agencies for emigration but these agencies are over-tasked with multiple responsibilities and this has given rise to unsatisfactory outcomes. Employment terms are usually dictated by receiving states but often, these are not clearly communicated to potential emigrants by the sending states. The only sending state in ASEAN that does not have legal restrictions on the fees that can be charged by recruitment agencies, is Cambodia. This means that Cambodian emigrants are more susceptible to unfair recruitment practices.
It was found that despite skill recognition frameworks being in place for high skilled migrants, employers may hesitate to hire them if assessments are deemed untrustworthy. The ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF) is supposed to be a remedy and it is in the implementation stage. The AQRF could come into effect at a later date – 2020. This is contingent on the development of member states’ National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) for alignment with the AQRF. Presently, the ten states have developed their respective NQFs to different levels. It is thus a challenge to converge to the AQRF. As long as convergence is not achieved, brain waste is inevitable.