PHNOM PENH, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have become hubs for migrant laborers from other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, a new World Bank report said on Monday.
In its report entitled "Migrating to Opportunity," intra-regional migration in ASEAN increased significantly between 1995 and 2015, turning Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore into regional migration hubs with 6.5 million migrants - 96 percent of the total number of migrant workers in ASEAN.
Thailand had 3.75 million ASEAN migrants from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, while Malaysia had 1.48 million ASEAN migrants mostly from Indonesia and Myanmar, and Singapore had 1.28 million ASEAN migrants mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Low-skilled, and often undocumented, ASEAN migrants move in search of economic opportunity, mainly in the construction, plantation, and domestic services sectors, the report said, adding that the higher-salary jobs are available, yet workers are not always able to take advantage of these opportunities.
The ASEAN Economic Community has taken steps to facilitate mobility, but these regulations only cover certain skilled professions - doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, architects, accountants, and tourism professionals - or just 5 percent of jobs in the region, it added.
Sudhir Shetty, World Bank chief economist for the East Asia and Pacific region, said that easing migration policies could boost workers' welfare and deepen regional economic integration.
"With the right policy choices, sending countries can reap the economic benefits of out-migration while protecting their citizens who choose to migrate for work," he said in a press release.
"In receiving countries, foreign workers can fill labor shortages and promote sustained economic growth, if migration policies are aligned with their economic needs. Inappropriate policies and ineffective institutions mean that the region is missing opportunities to gain fully from migration," he said.
According to the report, 805,272 Cambodians, or 98 percent of the country's total migrants to ASEAN, went to Thailand for jobs in agriculture, domestic work, construction, and manufacturing.
"A Cambodian migrant can earn three times more by moving for work in Thailand," it said.