Social Justice

ASEAN’s Efforts and Limitations on Protecting Migrant Workers’ Rights: In Search of Solutions through the Lens of Regulatory Regionalism

Abstract: The issue of migrant workers’ rights has been a difficult challenge for ASEAN to address. Many commentators have pointed out the inadequacies of ASEAN’s governance on this issue, such as the lack of legally binding regional instruments which are compatible with international labour standards; the absence of an enforcement mechanism; and the poor protection of migrant labourers’ rights in its member states. These shortcomings are the consequences of the “ASEAN way” which is based on the principles of sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, and consensus on decision-making, combined with the incompatibility between the national interests of different member states. However, it is unrealistic to expect that ASEAN would change these norms—meant to guarantee the respect of member states’ sovereignty—to improve the situation of migrant workers within the region. Hence this paper focuses on the concept of regulatory regionalism as a possible solution for ASEAN to deal with this issue. Although it might be a long and challenging process, this innovative approach not only allows ASEAN to play a more central role, but also eases member states’ concerns regarding their sovereignty. Accordingly, it would promote and protect the rights of migrant workers within the region in a truly comprehensive and integrated manner.


Keywords: migrant worker rights; regulatory regionalism; migrant workers in Southeast Asia


Publisher: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Author: Thuy Duong Nguyen

Date: 2020-08-21

Pages: 18

Download: In Search of Solutions through the Lens of Regulatory Regionalism (En)

Hashtags: #MigrantWorker #ASEAN

Go back