Prior to the pandemic, Southeast Asia had been one of Asia’s key labor migration corridors. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) includes approximately 10 million migrant workers. However, over the course of the pandemic, more than 10.6 million jobs and 7.8 percent of labor income have been lost, with devastating consequences for employers and workers alike. Between the beginning of the pandemic and the end of last year, over 260,000 Cambodian migrant workers have returned home.
In looking to the future, ASEAN is making it clear that restarting travel, including labor-related travel, is one of the bloc’s main agenda items. One of the key initiatives being prioritized as part of post-COVID-19 recovery is the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF), which has been in discussion since 2020. It aims to facilitate the essential movement of people while safeguarding public health; particularly establishing the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates and other standardized health measures.
As the holder of ASEAN’s rotating chairmanship in 2022, Cambodia has recognized the need to boost the implementation of such a travel arrangement with the hope that travel and business activities can gradually return to normal, which is particularly important given the large number of Cambodians working abroad.