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Creating better jobs in ASEAN countries



ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) includes some of today’s most dynamic economies. With the exception of Thailand, all are overcoming legacies of authoritarian rule. Since the 1990s, foreign investment and a vast pool of workers have helped Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and more recently Burma connect with global value chains in fashion, electronics, food processing, and other industries.

Ensuring that transformation leads to better jobs for growing numbers of youth is a top priority in these countries. Two new IDRC projects address this challenge.

A regional network will examine current policies and practices to upgrade skills and improve working conditions for young, low-skilled workers — mainly women and ethnic minorities. The Cambodia Development Resource Institute serves as the hub of the network, which will launch a competitive research call on this subject in the region. The initiative will fund up to 12 studies, some of which will test approaches that may be scaled up in the future.

In Burma, new research led by the Centre for Economic and Social Development at the Myanmar Development Resource Institute focuses on labour market reform. The project aims to provide labour ministry officials and other relevant stakeholders with evidence to support the development of fair and efficient labour markets as a basis for inclusive growth. Activities include studies on productivity, social security schemes, and wages; a survey of the needs of employers and employees in the garment and food processing sectors; and a comprehensive review of labour regulations.

Most jobs in South Asia are in fact created by workers themselves. Entrepreneurship is much touted as a pillar of growth in ASEAN countries, but they lack evidence on which to base supportive policies. As part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor initiative, research led by Malaysia’s UNIRAZAK

(Universiti Tun Abdul Razak) is bridging this gap through a benchmarking exercise that measures how entrepreneurs are emerging in the region. It brings together teams from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and will also study experiences in Thailand and Singapore. Research to date shows that Singapore continues to lead ASEAN in creating conditions for entrepreneurship, while Vietnam needs to improve financing, education, and its commercial and regulatory infrastructure to support business startups and growth. Their recommendations underscore the need for more effective business incubators and training to face the competitive challenge of further integration within ASEAN.

Learn more about how IDRC-supported research is creating better jobs for Asia

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“Opportunity exploitation at a regional level can result in […] improvements, not just for companies but for communities in terms of social gains. Entrepreneurship and innovation, rightly engineered, enables this and much more.”

Roland Xavier, Southeast Asia Regional
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, UNIRAZAK