E.g., 06/09/2023
E.g., 06/09/2023
Open Windows, Closed Doors: Mutual Recognition Arrangements on Professional Services in the ASEAN Region
January 2017

Open Windows, Closed Doors: Mutual Recognition Arrangements on Professional Services in the ASEAN Region

Seeking to improve the intraregional mobility of workers in the tourism sector and six regulated occupations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) between 2005 and 2014 signed accords meant to speed the mutual recognition of professional and academic qualifications. By jointly setting standardized rules for mutual recognition and renouncing, in part or in full, national discretion to assess foreign qualifications, ASEAN Member States have potentially made it easier for professionals to have their qualifications recognized across the region.

Although these seven Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) share nearly identical objectives, they diverge significantly in terms of institutional structures, requirements, and procedures. This report compares the different approaches ASEAN Member States have taken to facilitate mutual recognition of qualifications within the region, the factors that shaped each MRA approach, and their tradeoffs and policy implications. The authors also examine how ASEAN can maximize the potential of MRAs to build and utilize human capital in the long term.

This report is one in a series produced through a research partnership between the Asian Development Bank and the Migration Policy Institute. The project aims to improve understanding of the barriers to the free movement of professionals within the ASEAN region and to support the development of strategies to overcome these hurdles.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. A Comparison of ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements along Five Dimensions

A. Degree of Automaticity of the Recognition Process

B. Degree of Delegation of Authority

C. Degree of MRA Scope

D. Degree of Institutionalization

E. Post-MRA Guarantees

III. The ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements: Three Approaches to Mutual Recognition of Qualifications

IV. The Evolution of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements: Factors Affecting Design

A. Presence of Preexisting Standards

B. Availability of Financial and Technical Resources

C. Public Safeguards and Differing Realities

D. Protectionist Concerns

V. Moving from Design to Implementation: Tradeoffs and Policy Implications of the Three Mutual Recognition Arrangement Approaches

A. Tourism: Completing the Missing Parts

B. Accountancy, Architecture, and Engineering: Increasing Scope and Strengthening the Regional Infrastructure

C. Health Professionals: Building Trust and Strengthening the National Infrastructure

VI. Looking into the Future: Maximizing the Potential of Mutual Recognition Arrangements as Tools for Building and Utilizing the Region’s Human Capital

A. Creating Synergy between Mutual Recognition Arrangements and the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework 

B. Linking the Mutual Recognition Arrangements with Existing Mobility Arrangements within ASEAN

C. Learning from the Current Batch of ASEAN MRAs