Liberalization in Engineering Services: Urgency to Reform MRA in ACPE [English]


Ilustrasi pekerja teknik. Foto:

The inclusion of ASEAN countries in the advancement of the technology ladder has fetched the increasing demand of brain and the prevalence of cross-border mobility of skilled-workers under the ratification of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) in six regulated occupations which solely has the nexus for the market integration in the formation of ASEAN Economic Community. Despite the initial claim of the MRA in promoting the tranquillity for professional service mobility, it also encountered major limitations and impediments in terms of policy and regulatory frameworks among the member states. 

These sectors are including engineering under the ASEAN Chartered Professional Engineers (ACPE). The engineering sector is constituting to the semiautomatic route along with the architecture and accountancy, in essence, that those who wish to be recognised under the MRA system have to go through a three-step qualification process in their country of origin, at the ASEAN level, and in the country of destination (Asian Development Bank, 2016). It seems to be an excellent opportunity for professional engineers especially in the era of the liberalised influx of engineering related services concurrently with the boom of investment in construction and technological projects across the region. The circumstance also strives vigorous efforts of the member states’ good governance capacity in overarching aspects. However, the backlash is lurking under its opportunity itself. 

Focusing on the case of Indonesia, which may also commonly occur in other member states and taking into consideration that the construction project is positioned as the highest sector of the worker demand, with the study conducted by Business Wire (2020) that the total investment of infrastructure development in Indonesia worth for US$ 412 billion and forecasted to grow at a fast pace over 2020-2024. ASEAN Briefing (2019) reported that The Ministry of Labour issued Regulation No. 228/2019 as the supplement from the precedent year regulation, Regulation No.10/2018, which intended to attract the foreign workers. The latter regulation is aiming to simplify the approval process for foreigners and their employability as it argued that there is a massive skill gap in the engineering sectors. In most instances, The Ministry of Labour and Housing (2019) elucidated that according to the Central Statistical Agency only 641,595 workers whose appropriately certified or merely equal 7.5% out of approximately 8.5 million of the total professional construction workers in Indonesia.

Whilst it may be quite a conundrum as there is also concern about the challenges which are faced by Indonesia in terms of the lack of professional workforce that is capable of meeting the professional standards which implemented in the ASEAN as those standards are competitively high in the International milieu. Meanwhile, if the circumstance compared with the foreign workers that their calibre is apparently higher than the locals, and thus, all the drawbacks are burdened to the local as they are more likely to be defeated in both local and international labour market.

If we do scrutinise further in this context that there are disturbing links between the ACPE and such regulations stipulated in Indonesia. Been to the fact that along with the continuance of ASEAN MRA itself the deficiency of human resources development has become the substantial concern as it supposed to be ensuring the quality of supply professional through the harmonisation of training and providing access to the labour market. However, especially in the semiautomatic approach that it encounters systematic barriers and not directly linked to the existing regional initiatives that cater access to the labour market. 

The quintessential is in the engineering sector does not cover the supply of professionals and the demand from employers as well as the absence of harmonised training. Putting an analogy when a Singaporean comes to Indonesia, and it raised the question “how we assess the Singaporean engineers who have been recognised or vice versa? If there is no such harmonisation of training, as the discrepancy of the bare minimum standard may differ between countries, and it is obviously committed to the confidential standard of certain countries rather than the regional integration or even the single market operation. 

It can be put in the quest that the quarrel of ACPE and the liberalised influx of engineering related services in the context of market integration, an opportunity or threat for the local engineer in Indonesia?

Responding to the inquires, the reform of good governance capacity both in the national and regional spheres is necessitating to the better progression of MRA that promotes its envisionment of market integration and it would be beneficial both for local and expatriate workers. Taking the exemplification in the milieu of ASEAN community that taken measures by increasing scope and strengthening regional infrastructure, as may stipulate the transparency of compensatory measures, increasing the flexibility by opening out recognition approach as in the engineers should have the local partner for collaboration, strengthening the stakeholder for coordinating committees referring to the harmonisation it may be possible done through the exchange of best practices that would deepen technical knowledge on related matters. In the national sphere, as stated implicitly in the precedent arguments, we do not have to lessen the standard requirements even for locals rather more stressing on the human development to be more competent before they are jumping into the real workforce and sustainable technical assistance as well as the prominence of information dissemination. 

Subsequently, the liberalisation efforts of under many regional agreements should be encouraged with the consideration of the maximum capacity of governance reform as aforementioned. Member states can further liberalise either through the regional partners or autonomous liberalisation. They have to advance intra-ASEAN joint ventures, mergers and acquisition and commercial collaboration in professional engineering services. 


ASEAN Briefing. (2019). Expatriate Workers in Indonesia: New Regulation on Positions Open for Employment.

Business Wire. (2020). Construction in Indonesia Market 2020 – Key Trends and Opportunities.—Key-Trends-and-Opportunities—

Kementrian Pekerja Umum dan Perumahan Rakyat. (2019). Sertifikasi Tenaga Kerja Konstruksi . Jakarta: Kementrian PUPR.

Mendoza, Dovelyn R. (2016). Open Windows, Closed doors. Mutual Recognition Arrangements on Professional Services in the ASEAN Region. Asian Development Bank.

Syifa Kamilla Hanief is a student at Public Policy and Management, University of Gadjah Mada. Syifa has keen interests in economics, development studies, and international relations. She can be found on @syifakahanief. 

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