Alor Setar: The proposal to introduce a free flow of skilled labour in the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will be set up this year, has received a positive response from member countries.

However, the members said it was crucial to have a mutual skills recognition schemes across Asean to ensure its success.

Singapore Human Capital Leadership Institute Chief Executive Officer, Wong Su-Yen, said the move will help expand the talent pool to some extent.

“However, a lot of efforts are required to get us from where we are today, to the future state. “More importantly, the Asean members need to look at talent as a bloc. Which countries are best-positioned for which industries, jobs and skills,” she said in an interview.

The AEC is expected to provide a free flow of skilled labour in eight sectors – engineering, nursing, architectural services, surveying, accounting services, dental practitioners and the medical profession.

Apart from that, Wong said, language was among the issues that needed to be addressed as there was no common language across Asean countries.

“In China, for example, despite the multiple dialects spoken across the various provinces, given the common use of Mandarin, a free flow of labour is not hampered by this impediment,” she said.

On the concentration of talent pool in more developed countries, she said, individuals tended to evaluate their careers and lifestyle options available to them in a holistic manner.

“Salary is, in fact, but one component. The key considerations typically include strong employment prospects, good working conditions, opportunities for advancement, robust education and healthcare system, safety and security, social, environmental, and other quality of life factors,” Wong said.

Meanwhile, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd Chief People Officer, Hamidah Naziadin, said although the free flow of skilled labour will help expand the talent pool, it will depend on the specifics.

“For example, although Malaysia may be short of Islamic banking specialists, can other countries supply them? “If there are no specialists to export, and on top of that, there are differing ideas of what constitute Islamic banking, there will be no ‘expansion’ to the talent pool,” she said.

On the changes in employment trend, Hamidah said, recruitment and compensation will change in tandem with the free labour movement.

However, for CIMB, the bank has both country-specific practices (where countries have autonomy), and group-wide practices, she said.

On talent migration, she said, they will naturally moved towards opportunities for growth.

“However, a better salary is only one of many factors that will be considered when talents consider moving elsewhere.

“Some countries where the economy is stronger is also associated with higher cost of living. Demand for talent is another factor. A smaller country is likely to have a smaller demand, all things being equal,” she said. – Bernama