Indonesia will propose a minimum wage be set for workers in Southeast Asian countries at the next ASEAN manpower ministers meeting in an effort to protect employees in the region.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla introduced the idea amid concerns over a lack of protection for nationals of ASEAN member states.

“Vietnam very much supports what I have said about the need for ASEAN countries to protect their citizens from exploitation,” Kalla said on Thursday as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said other ASEAN member countries had expressed interest in pushing for a minimum wage for workers in the region.

Kalla said manpower ministers from ASEAN member countries would meet shortly to discuss the issue.

“We are in agreement. Cambodia has also agreed,” he asserted.

Kalla added that the government did not want large multinational companies in ASEAN countries to compete for the lowest wages.

“Competition is good, and so far we have not lost out due to low wages because the raw material is the same, the factories too,” Kalla said.

He said the government would invite the ASEAN secretary-general to discuss the issue with Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia have many workers. We may also ask Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore. Even Thailand already has high wages,” he said.

When speaking at the World Economic Forum in Malaysia recently, the Vice President proposed a standard minimum wage be applied throughout the Southeast Asian region.

He said many international footwear and garment companies had relocated their factories to Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia because workers wages in the countries were lower.

“They produce shoes and clothes for US$15, but sell them for $100. Let’s not be played like that. Let’s also not let our workers be exploited,” Kalla said. ( liz/dan ) 3 June 2016