While countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore will see their labour force shrink over the next two decades, Cambodia will see its increase, encouraging more migration in the region and adding urgency to calls to introduce better protections for migrants, according to a study published yesterday by the World Bank.
The report – Migrating to Opportunity – suggests easing restrictions on labour migration as a way to boost workers’ welfare and deepen regional economic integration.
The study found that about $62 billion in remittances were sent to Asean countries in 2015. In Cambodia, remittances accounted for 3 percent of GDP. But more “ambitious action” is needed to bring greater benefits to the migrants, their countries and the countries that receive them, according to the study.
“The mismatch in the supply and demand of labour will encourage people of working age to seek employment in different parts of the region,” the study reads. “Migrants can already earn substantially more by moving across borders.
Average wages in high-income Singapore are at least five times those of any other ASEAN country while a Cambodian migrant can earn three times more by moving to work in Thailand.”
The study advises countries likely to experience higher migration rates, such as Cambodia, to make their migration process less costly and more formal.
Mauro Testaverde, an economist and one of the study authors, said Cambodia has made progress in recent years to establish a legal framework for migrant workers, but “formal migration channels remain costly and time-consuming”.
Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labour, didn’t respond to a request for comment.