Demographics, labour mobility and productivity: ABDI working paper 387
This paper considers two major issues that need to be treated as matters of urgency. First, internal (within country) migrations in the Asian (ACI) region are mostly undocumented and large. It is shown there are significant differences in wages and human development measures to which migrants will respond. Our first (of two) recommendation(s) is the need to collect better information on migration and for wage premiums and discounts to be estimated across sectors and countries. The second major issue is the emerging demographic imbalances in the form of aging, which will give dependency ratios that have never been experienced in all of recorded human existence. This needs urgent attention and the development of appropriate migration policies. Whilst it is possible to share the burdens of ageing and dependency through migration, this will not happen under present arrangements.
Migration cannot continue to be treated differently to trade and finance. A framework needs to be developed to provide a coherent set of policies relating to migration and social welfare, within and across countries in the Asian region. Our second recommendation is for the East Asia Summit (ASEAN+10) to set up a high level working group to consider possible future harmonized migration based policies, bringing together relevant economic, political, social and legal issues. This should encompass the recent ASEAN leadership on the rights of migrant workers and labor work programs. It complements the Summit's focus on education and human resource development and heeds the World Economic Forum's call for Asian leadership in enhancing regional connectivity (expanded to include human resources).
As we have argued many times in this paper, increasing the mobility of humans is the best way to not only promote economic efficiency, but to provide freedom and significant improvements in their wellbeing and quality of life.