Rene Ofreneo and Peter Wad The Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) spans great unevenness in the development of the ten member countries of the ASEAN in GDP per capita. The GDP per capita of the oil-rich Brunei and Singapore, Southeast (SE) Asia’s newly industrialized economy (NIE), is around US$30 000, and that is more than 50 times that of the Lao PDR, Cambodia and the militarized Myanmar, more than 20 times that of Vietnam and the Philippines, more than nine times that of Thailand and more than five times that of Malaysia, the third richest country in Southeast Asia GDP-wise (ASEAN Statistics, 2007). This chapter not only outlines how this unevenness in economic development is reflected in the wage labour market and the system of industrial relations (IR) prevailing in the ten ASEAN countries. It also shows how the uneven and relatively weak IR and labour market institutions and conditions are shaping the accumulation process in Southeast Asia, particularly in the ASEAN developing economies1 that have developed strong links with the global production and service chains of the transnational corporations (TNCs). These TNCs are generally averse or hostile to the formation of labour unions, especially in the so-called export economic zones (EEZs). And yet there are areas where the unions have managed to survive and remain viable despite the anti-union environment in the region. The challenge for a critical political economic analysis is to answer how these unions may be able to strengthen their ranks and collectively...
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