Policymakers talk a lot about the impact of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. But the real question is, how will this AEC affect the 600 million people who live in the region? Together the International Labour Organization and the Asian Development Bank set out to find some answers, and we recently delivered our findings in a report presented to the ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh.

Ordinary men and women first and foremost experience economic change though the labour market. What matters to them is whether they can find a good job that offers security, pays decent wages in decent conditions, and whether, in time, their children will be able to do the same.

Our findings are encouraging. If managed well over the next decade, the AEC could boost the region’s economies by 7.1 per cent by 2025, increase investment, and generate 14 million additional jobs. However, there are some big “ifs” and “buts”.

While some sectors will flourish others are likely to see job losses, and some workers will not necessarily have the right skills to seize the new opportunities created by the AEC. Women could have a relatively smaller share of new jobs. In addition, while improved productivity may bring income increases for some, particularly high-skilled workers, this could bypass the large majority unless more effective wage-setting mechanisms for low-wage workers are in place. –YOSHITERU URAMOTO. FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

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