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

Publication | December 2016

ASEAN members have made it easier for professionals to have qualifications recognized across the region, but with varying levels of openness to foreign professionals.

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has signed mutual recognition arrangements in the tourism sector and in six regulated occupations: accountancy, architecture, dentistry, engineering, medicine, and nursing. By setting standardized rules for mutual recognition, ASEAN members have made it easier for professionals to have their qualifications recognized across the region. Although these arrangements share nearly identical objectives, not all are created equal and come with varying levels of openness to foreign professionals.

This report is the latest in a project by ADB and the Migration Policy Institute to improve understanding of the barriers to free movement of professionals within ASEAN and to support the development of strategies to overcome these hurdles. The report draws on insights of nearly 400 ASEAN and state officials, private-sector employers, training directors, and others who participated in focus group discussions, meetings, and surveys.


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction 
  • A Comparison of ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements along Five Dimensions
  • The ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements: Three Approaches to Mutual Recognition of Qualifications
  • The Evolution of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements: Factors Affecting Design
  • Moving from Design to Implementation: Tradeoffs and Policy Implications of the Three Mutual Recognition Arrangement Approaches
  • Looking into the Future: Maximizing the Potential of Mutual Recognition Arrangements as Tools for Building and Utilizing the Region’s Human Capital
  • Appendixes

Additional Details

  • Education
  • Tertiary and higher education
  • Technical and vocational education and training
  • Industry and trade
  • Regional cooperation and integration
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Viet Nam
  • 62
  • 8.5 x 11
  • RPT168579-2
  • 978-92-9257-699-8 (print)
  • 978-92-9257-700-1 (electronic)

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