JAKARTA, 7 July 2017 – Women migrant workers of ASEAN contribute significantly to the region’s economies. Yet many obstacles remain which must be removed to ensure their equal participation in and benefit from ASEAN economic growth and development. The ASEAN High-level Policy Dialogue on Women Migrant Workers in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) concluded with the participation of senior officials from labour, gender, trade and foreign affairs of ASEAN Member States. H.E. Jane Duke, Australian Ambassador to ASEAN and H.E. Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg, German Ambassador to Indonesia were also in presence.

It is expected that the AEC will boost regional economies by 7.1 per cent and create almost 14 million new jobs. When women are able to participate as equal beneficiaries of sustainable development, societies and economies are stronger. Inspired by the outcomes of the Study on Women Migrant Workers in the ASEAN Economic Community, delegates exchanged views on the situations of women migrant workers in the region, and employment opportunities and challenges that the AEC could bring to them. Delegates recognised that while the AEC brings benefits and opportunities for women migrant workers, they need to rise up occupational hierarchy in high-growth sectors. Delegates discussed issues of skills development of women migrant workers, and decent work conditions and employment opportunities particularly in manufacturing, construction, agriculture and household sectors.

Speaking at the Policy Dialogue, H.E. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, emphasised that, “It is imperative for ASEAN to include a gender lens as we pursue our closer economic integration to ensure that no one is left behind from the enjoyment of benefits and opportunities that the ASEAN Economic Community brings.” He further noted that ASEAN already adopted policy frameworks and commitments to protect and promote human rights including those of women migrant workers. “I cannot stress enough the cross-sectoral nature of the issues concerning migrant workers. No one sector can address their complexity alone and concerted efforts from all relevant sectors and stakeholders are needed,” he added.

“Through this study, the Government of Indonesia would like to invite our partners in ASEAN Member States to work together in protecting and promoting the right of migrant workers, especially for women who belong to the vulnerable groups. I believe that it should be a joint work among the Government of country of origin, the Government of country of destination, as well as the related stakeholders to provide the best development and protection for women migrant workers” said Mr. R. Soes Hindharno, Director of Manpower Overseas Placement and Protection, Ministry of Manpower of Indonesia.

“Policymakers, companies and individuals have a responsibility to make sure women workers are empowered with the right opportunities and the right labour market conditions. By promoting women’s equality and empowerment, ASEAN can drive overall growth. It’s not only the right thing to do, it is smart economics,” said Ms. Miwa Kato, UN Women Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

The Study Report was launched during the Policy Dialogue. “The study advocates and shows the benefits of progressive migration policies with a gender perspective on national and regional level,” said Adrienne Woltersdorf, Director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia. “Inclusive migration policies contribute to economic growth, allow women to achieve their full potential as agents of development and make conditions for women workers safer and therefore more productive.”

According to available data, there are 9.9 million migrant workers working in ASEAN, and two-third of those are ASEAN nationals. Women migrant workers make up nearly half of intra-ASEAN migrant workers and they are a critical workforce in the region. Despite their contribution to the economies of countries of destination and origin, women migrant workers experience limited access to social protection, skills development, and high-skilled job opportunities.

The Study and Policy Dialogue are initiatives of the ASEAN Committee to Implement the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) were coordinated by the Ministry of Manpower of Indonesia. The project is supported by the ASEAN Secretariat, UN Women, FES, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia.

The Policy Dialogue was also attended by representatives from ASEAN Confederation of Employers, ASEAN Trade Union Council, ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council, Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers and the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch.

About the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC)

The ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC), based in Jakarta, was established in 1976. Its core function is to provide for greater efficiency in the coordination of ASEAN organs and for more effective implementation of regional projects and activities. ASEC strives to be the nerve centre of a strong and confident ASEAN Community that is globally respected for acting in full compliance with the ASEAN Charter and in the best interest of its people. 

About UN Women

UN Women is the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, the organization was established in 2010 to accelerate progress on women’s rights worldwide. UN Women’s efforts are based on the fundamental belief that every woman has the right to live a life free from violence, poverty, and discrimination, and that gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving global development.

About Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Asia

FES in Asia runs activities that support organizing for social justice, shaping an economy of tomorrow, and enhancing cooperation for freedom and security. Activities around these goals are developed with instruments that help promote democracy, build transnational networks and progressive coalitions between individuals and organisations. In line with this commitment, FES strives to understand the trends of globalisation, labour mobility and regional integration in order to promote social democracy and change for more social justice, sustainable peace and economic development in the region.