To enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN, human capital holds a key role in driving the direction of the economy and the social progress. With ASEAN’s massive labour force amounting to 285 million, ASEAN recognises the importance of job creation, developing the quality of the workforce and providing social security to the workers.

Since 2000, ASEAN’s work on labour and human resources has been guided by the ASEAN Labour Ministers (ALM) Work Programme. The Work Programme provides the framework to prepare the region’s labour force to face the challenges of globalisation and trade liberalisation. The five broad priorities initially set in the Work Programme are in the areas of employment generation, labour market monitoring, labour mobility, social protection, and tripartite cooperation. In May 2006, the ASEAN Labour Ministers agreed in their Joint Statement of 2006 to add a sixth priority area, namely occupational safety and health (OSH), in the ALM Work Programme.

Apart from the priorities set in the ALM Work Programme, ASEAN made a groundbreaking move to address the issue of migrant workers on 13 January 2007, when its Leaders signed the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. The Declaration mandates ASEAN countries to promote fair and appropriate employment protection, payment of wages, and adequate access to decent working and living conditions for migrant workers. As a follow-up to the Declaration, an ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) convened its first Meeting in September 2008. The ACMW is currently in the process of drafting the ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of migrant workers and started the first round of discussions in April 2009 in Bangkok.

ASEAN Labour Cooperation Structure

ASEAN’s effort on labour is led by the ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting (ALMM) which is held every two years. The historical 1st ALMM was held in April 1975 in Jakarta. Under the ALMM is the Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM) which monitors the progress of implementation of the ALM Programme. Since the continuous growth in labour cooperation, SLOM has established four subsidiary bodies, namely:

  1. Senior Labour Officials Meeting Working Group on Progressive Labour Practices to Enhance the

    Competitiveness of ASEAN (SLOM-WG)
    The Working Group was first established in 2006 as an Ad-Hoc Working Group and was reconstituted as a permanent body under SLOM in 2008. SLOM-WG focuses its efforts on priority areas including Human Resource, Social Security, Industrial Relations, Skills Development and Networking, Skills Recognition, Labour Law, Labour Statistics, and Decent Work

  2. ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW)

    The Committee was established as a follow-up to the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. The Committee’s work focuses on four main thrusts as follows:

    Thrust 1: Step up protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers against exploitation and mistreatment
    Thrust 2: Strengthen protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers by enhancing labour migration governance in ASEAN Member States
    Thrust 3: Regional cooperation to fight human trafficking in ASEAN, in collaboration with the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime
    Thrust 4: Development of an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers

  3. ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (OSHNET)

    The ASEAN OSHNET has been a longstanding subsidiary of SLOM, celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2009. ASEAN OSHNET aims to promote cooperation in improving safety and health in the workplace in the ASEAN region. It also serves as a platform to exchange experience and information in the field of occupational safety and health standards, training, research, inspection and national framework. Further information can be found in the website .

  4. SLOM Working Group on the HIV Prevention and Control in the Work Place

    The Working Group was established in May 2008 with the general objectives to facilitate policy dialogue and information sharing among Member States on good practices and strategic actions on issues and areas related to HIV/AIDS in the Workplace and to be a platform for identifying ways forward, including enhancing regional collaboration among ASEAN on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace. The Working Group’s specific objectives are to study the need for legislative instruments on HIV and AIDS and the world of work based on the ILO’s Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work and to assist in the development of an ASEAN-wide model HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy led by the lead countries with technical support from the ILO, combining experiences, tools and approaches of the Member States.

In collaboration with ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, a number of activities and various studies have been completed, are on-going or being prepared by ASEAN. ASEAN has worked with Dialogue Partners in several areas such as Industrial Relations, Social Protection, and Human Resource Development. In addition, joint activities are also being undertaken under the purview of the ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM+3), which was established in 2001 under the framework of ASEAN cooperation with China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (Plus Three countries). The ALMM+3 is now convened back-to-back with the ALMM.

Relations between ILO and ASEAN have been ongoing since 2003 and have led to several joint initiatives and projects. A Cooperation Agreement between the ASEAN Secretariat and the International Labour Office was signed in March 2007.