1. The Fourteenth ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting was convened from 11 to 12 May 2000, preceded by the ASEAN Senior Labour Officials Meeting held on 10 May 2000, and the Seventh Meeting of the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Labour Affairs held on 9 May 2000, in Manila, Philippines.
2. The Meeting was officially opened by His Excellency Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines.
3. In his Keynote Speech, President Estrada pointed out that the Asian crisis had emphasised the critical role that Labour Ministers must play in the recovery effort. He urged the ASEAN Labour Ministers to design appropriate labour and employment policies that would support both growth with employment, as well as employment with social equity. This meant that the ASEAN labor community must continue promoting employment and setting up adequate human resources development interventions and social protection mechanisms that would cushion the impact of a possible crisis in the future.
4. President Estrada also emphasised that given the variety of experiences, the crisis validated the pillars of cooperation and understanding among ASEAN Labour Ministries. It was important first, to recognise levels of development of member-states in relation to crafting appropriate short and long-term strategies for employment and social protection. He noted that the real challenge to Labour Ministers was how to ensure continuing competitiveness of our human resources in order for them to be able to participate in economically productive activities that assure them of decent income. Finally, he challenged the Labor Ministers to help push the growth of ASEAN through more expanded terms of cooperation within and outside the region. He concluded that the theme for ASEAN in the new millennium, under a global economy, should now be “ASEAN for the World”.
5. The Meeting was attended by Ministers of Labour from ASEAN Member Countries. The ASEAN Secretariat was also in attendance. The list of ASEAN Labour Ministers is attached.
6. His Excellency Mr. Bienvenido E. Laguesma, Secretary of Labour and Employment of the Philippines and His Excellency Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn were unanimously elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Meeting, respectively.
7. As host of the 14th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting, Hon. Bienvenido Laguesma extended a warm welcome to the Ministers and their delegations. He recalled the successive progress achieved by the ASEAN Labour Ministers since their first meeting in 1975.. in the field of labour. In his statement, Secretary Laguesma posed the challenge of how ASEAN, given the different circumstances of its members, could pursue regional cooperation and promote sustained growth while equally taking care of the social dimension.
8. He suggested that the ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting must continue to re-orient their mission to fit ever-changing demands in order to promote socio-economic development and stability, industrial harmony, higher productivity, efficient use of human resources, greater employment opportunities, and enhanced quality of life for all workers.
9. Secretary Laguesma encouraged the opening up of new horizons of cooperation among ASEAN Labour Ministries through joint action, particularly to address transnational issues on labour migration, labour market information, technology and technology-sharing, and skills standard certification. He asked that the Meeting consider not only plans for future programmes of action but also commitment to share resources and contribution to implement the programmes.
Vision and Mission Statement of the ASEAN Labour Ministers
10. In the light of the rapid changes taking place in ASEAN as a result of regional economic integration, the trends of trade liberalisation and globalisation, and the renewed focus of priorities in labour and employment as called for by the Hanoi Plan of Action and the directives of the Third ASEAN Informal Summit, the Ministers pledged a renewed commitment and determination to strengthen the social pillars of ASEAN by promoting the full potential and dignity of workers and to address specific issues and concerns brought about by these changes. They adopted a Vision and Mission Statement describing the nature of these tasks and outlining the future course of action to be charted in the area of labour and employment, directed at strengthening internal capacities to address social protection, employment generation and enhanced tripartite consultation.
11. To realise their Vision, the Ministers tasked the Senior Labour Officials to collaborate closely in firming up the framework and operationalising a five-year work programme to address the following issues as agreed at the 13th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting held in May 1999 in Yangon:
- sharing and exchange of experience and best practices in developing social protection and social security systems;
- promoting tripartite cooperation through increased consultations among the social partners, in relation to economic restructuring including strengthening of tripartite institutions and mediation/conciliation mechanisms; and
- enhancing capacity for designing programmes or policies on employment generation, focusing on active labour market policies and re-training.
12. The Ministers noted with appreciation the Philippines’ hosting of a Strategic Planning Workshop from 10 to 12 April 2000 in Cebu, to formulate the regional work programme and the Vision and Mission Statement. The Ministers noted that the project was an output of the ASEAN UNDP ASP-6 Sub-Programme, Support to Monitor and Facilitate ASEAN Economic Recovery, signed between the UNDP and ASEAN in July 1999. The Ministers expressed sincere appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for securing funding to implement the formulation of the work programme, and to the UNDP for providing funding support.
13. As a follow-up to the resolution against Myanmar adopted by the 87th Session of the ILC for alleged violations of the ILO Convention on Forced Labour of 1930 (Convention 29), the ILO has informed ASEAN that it was unable to implement two ASEAN projects, since under the resolution, Myanmar was excluded from participating in and benefitting from ILO technical cooperation and assistance programmes.
14. In this regard, the Ministers expressed regret that ILO had discontinued its commitment to support the implementation of two priority ASEAN projects on labour, namely ASEAN Project on Human Resources Development Planning and ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations, which address issues pertinent to strategies for promoting employment in the recovery process and fall within the basic mandate of the ILO. They observed that this would deny Member Countries the opportunity to improve and upgrade human resources in the region and to promote cooperation among the social partners. Accordingly, the Ministers requested the ILO to reconsider its decision.
ILO Convention on Forced Labour of 1930 (Convention 29)
15. The Ministers were briefed on the outstanding issues faced by the Government of Myanmar in complying with ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labour. The Ministers were informed by His Excellency the Minister of Labour of Myanmar of the invitation, without preconditions, requesting ILO to send a technical cooperation mission to Myanmar. The Ministers welcomed this positive development and strongly urged the ILO to send the technical cooperation mission to assist Myanmar regarding compliance with Convention 29. The mission should be sent preferably before the forthcoming ILC so that the outstanding issues between Myanmar and ILO could be expeditiously resolved.
Promotion of Labour Standards
16. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to promote working conditions in an environment of freedom and equality. On the worst forms of child labour, the Ministers reiterated their position that child labour should be eliminated as soon as possible but were of the view that the solution to the fundamental problem should be through education, technical assistance and other promotional activities. On the promotion of labour standards, the Ministers stressed that it should not be linked to trade issues and registered their concern that labour standards could be used for protectionist or other purposes which are not relevant to the objectives of the ILO. In this regard, the Ministers urged the ILO to assure that the promotion of labour standards should be carried out within the purview of the ILO and for the benefit of the workers, employers and governments of the Member States.
17. The Ministers noted the progress in the implementation of the ongoing ASEAN projects in the field of labour. They noted with satisfaction that priority activities under the projects, ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (ASEAN-OSHNET)and Promotion of Self-Employment and Development in the Informal Sector, had been implemented on a cost-shared basis, and expressed appreciation to Member Countries for their efforts and commitment to self-reliance. The Ministers thanked Indonesia for hosting the Secretariat of the ASEAN-OSHNET for the first three-year term, and for developing the ASEAN-OSHNET regional homepage. They noted that the Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of the ASEAN-OSHNET would be signed at the First Meeting of the ASEAN-OSHNET Coordinating Board to be held in July 2000.
18. The Ministers also thanked Malaysia for convening the Regional Seminar on Informal Sector Development to review and finalise the ASEAN Plan of Action on Informal Sector Development. They expressed their hope that implementation of priority activities under the Plan of Action would also be pursued in the same spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cooperation.
19. Noting that the projects, ASEAN Regional Project on Human Resource Development Planning and ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations, address issues pertinent to strategies for promoting employment in the recovery process, the Ministers called for the speedy implementation of the projects.
20. The Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Central Officials Training Institute of the Republic of Korea (ROK) for proposing to implement a fifth phase of the project Human Resources Development Programme for Officials of ASEAN Countries, for funding under the ASEAN-ROK Special Cooperation Fund. They noted that previous phases of the programme had promoted the exchange of experiences on human resources development between ASEAN and ROK officials, particularly in view of the financial and economic crisis in ASEAN and the ROK, and expressed their hope that the focus of this year’s programme would be on strategies for enhanced collaboration in all aspect of human resource development, including social protection and social security systems, best practices in labour market monitoring and social impact assessment, as well as life-long employability training, among others.
21. The Ministers noted the rapid integration of ASEAN to the realisation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) and the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), will bring about greater integration of ASEAN’s labour markets. This has a strong implication on the future of ASEAN cooperation in labour, particularly to the new members of ASEAN. This initiative would also enable ASEAN to promote greater cooperation among ASEAN countries to achieve economic growth and social progress.
22. To this end, the Ministers noted with interest and agreed to further consider the ASEAN Secretariat’s proposal to develop a technical assistance programme for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV), with the objective of assisting these countries to adjust to the changes brought about by the process of regional economic integration, particularly in the areas of labour market integration and creation of conducive environment. The envisaged technical assistance mission, comprising reputable labour experts from ASEAN countries, would visit the CLMV countries. The Ministers requested the ASEAN Secretariat to prepare a Terms of Reference for the mission, taking into account the importance of identifying the needs of the CLMV countries and to match those with capacities in the region and strategies for resource mobilisation.
23. The Ministers registered their appreciation for the contributions of ASEAN’s dialogue partners, particularly that of the Republic of Korea (ROK), for ASEAN’s projects on human resource development and other related projects on labour.
24. In recognising the importance of technical cooperation in enhancing the capacity of ASEAN’s human resources in meeting the challenges of global economic integration and trade liberalisation, the Ministers welcomed the opportunity to hold informal dialogues or consultations, as appropriate, particularly with dialogue partners, with a view to strengthening cooperation to benefit the region.
Possible Restructuring of ASCLA
25. The Ministers considered the possibility of restructuring the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Labour Affairs (ASCLA) in view of the ASCLA meetings being convened back-to-back with the annual ALMM meetings, the significant increase in the workload and priorities of ASEAN cooperation in human resource development, and the role of the ASEAN Secretariat in formulating and seeking funding for projects. The Ministers agreed that the Committee on Social Development’s (COSD) Ad Hoc Task Force Meeting on Enhancing the Effectiveness of the COSD and its Subsidiary Bodies could take into account the following in their deliberations from 29 to 31 May 2000 in Jakarta:
- to subsume the ASCLA under the annual Senior Labour Official Meetings, reporting directly to the ALMM;
- in order to avoid proliferation of committees, to establish a technical working group as part of the SLOM to review project proposals, while SLOM would focus on policy issues such as ILO matters and preparations for the ALMM; and
- after obtaining approval of the ALMM, SLOM could submit project proposals
- directly to the ASEAN Standing Committee, through the ASEAN Secretariat.
26. The delegations of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and the people of the Republic of the Philippines for the generous hospitality extended to the delegations and the excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The Ministers also registered their sincere appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for its valuable contributions to the success of the Meeting.
27. The Ministers welcomed with appreciation Malaysia’s gracious offer to host the 15th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting in May 2001.
28. The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cordiality.