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  Report on the 16th Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils (ASSREC) Biennial Conference held in New Delhi, India, from 30th November to 2nd December 2005  
     
 

Prof. Mohd Hazim Shah
Deputy President
Malaysian Social Science Association

 
     
     
 

The Conference was held at the Conference Hall, 2nd Floor, in the main building of the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR). The ICSSR, together with AASSREC, acted as hosts for the Conference. The Conference was held for three days and attended by about 30 participants from India, Pakistan, Australia, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The theme for the 16th Biennial Conference is The Challenges of Unemployment, in which 12 country papers, on the subject of unemployment in the respective countries, were presented.

The Malaysian Social Science Association sent two delegates to the Conference, namely: (i) Dr Mohd Hazim Shah, the Deputy President of PSSM, who attended on behalf of the PSSM’s President, and (ii) Dr Madeline Berma, a member of the Malaysian Social Science Association from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, who presented the country paper for Malaysia, entitled Challenges of Unemployment in Malaysia.

Day 1: Wednesday, 30th November 2005

The day began with a meeting of the AASSREC Executive Council at around 10am. It was attended by EXCO members from member countries, and chaired by the President, Prof. Andre Beteille.

After a short coffee break, the Conference proper commenced at about 11.00 am, with welcoming remarks from Dr Vinod K. Mehta from the Indian Council for Social Science Research, followed by a Presidential Address given by the President of AASSREC, Prof. Andre Beteille from India, and a vote of thanks by Dr Virginia A. Miralao (Philippines), the Secretary-General of AASSREC.

The session started with a Special Lecture by Prof. P. Balaram, a distinguished Indian scientist, on the subject of “The Ethics of Science”. In his lecture he pointed out that modern science is western in its origins, but has now become universal and globalised. He posed the question as to whether scientists should be blamed for some of the negative impact of science on society, for example the issue of nuclear weapons. The fault, according to him, does not lie with science, but with humanity and its values. In this regard, he quotes Tagore on the values of humanity. The lecture was chaired by Prof. Andre Beteille, and took about an hour.

The meeting was then adjourned from 12.30pm to 2.00pm for lunch break after which Country Presentations on The Challenges of Unemployment, were started. The first session was chaired by Prof. S. Hettige from Sri Lanka, and presentations were made by delegates from Australia, Bangladesh and China. The session took about one and a half hour from 2.00pm to 3.30pm, in which each speaker spoke for about half an hour.

The Australian country paper entitled “Unemployment in Australia”, written by Prof. Sue Richardson, gave a profile of the unemployment situation in Australia. It showed how Australia’s good macro-economic management policy has helped to reduce the unemployment problem and avoid recession. However, the problem of under-employment still remains.

The Bangladesh country paper by Md. Abdur Rahim Khan was entitled, “Problems of Unemployment in Bangladesh: Some Issues and Concerns”. It underlines the seriousness of the unemployment problem in Bangladesh, and the inability of the market to provide enough jobs. It was mentioned that because of the lack of employment opportunities back home, Bangladeshis have been seeking employment abroad as a means of solving the unemployment problem.

The China country paper by Zhanxin Zhang on “Unemployment of Local and Migrant Labour in Urban China”, discusses the impact of China’s new economic liberalization policies on employment, focusing on urban areas.

After a short coffee break, the meeting resumed at 3.45pm for the second session of Country Presentation. The session was chaired by Prof. Kotami of Japan (later elected the next President of AASSREC), and presentations were made by delegates from India, Indonesia and Iran. The session ended at 5.00pm.

The Indian country paper by Dr Alakh N. Sharma was entitled “Employment and Unemployment in India: Emerging Patterns and Issues”. Since the mid-1970s employment generation and poverty reduction were the most important challenges of India’s development policy. The paper discusses the trend, pattern and nature of employment growth in India in recent years. It also reviews and examines the issue of industrial restructuring, labour flexibility and employment growth.

The Indonesian country paper by Laila Nagib and Ngadi was entitled “Challenges of Unemployment in Indonesia: Trends, Issues and Policies”. The paper describes the issues and challenges of unemployment in Indonesia and focuses on three major aspects, namely: (i) the growth of labour force and unemployment trends during the pre- and post-crisis period (ii) issues on unemployment and related aspects, including migrant labour, and (iii) how the government’s development policies address the challenges of unemployment.

The Iran country paper by Naseer Ali Azimi on “Employment Challenges in Iran: Focus on Youth and Women Employment”, looks at the employment challenges facing Iran, especially with respect to youth and women, since half of the population are women and also 50% of the population are below 15 years of age.

In the evening the delegates were treated to a cultural show, entitled “The Dances of India”. Later, a dinner was hosted at the India International Centre.

Day 2: 1st December 2005

The meeting started at 9.30pm, with a continuation of the country presentations in session 3. It was chaired by Prof. Emma Porio from the Philippines, with country presentations being made by delegates from Japan and Malaysia.

The Japan country paper by Dr Toyokazu Nose on “A Study of Outsourcing from a Viewpoint of the Historical Changes in Japanese Manufacturing Industry”, touches briefly on the unemployment situation in Japan, in the opening section, and went on to discuss models of efficient systems of management in business organizations.

The country paper on Malaysia was presented by Dr Madeline Berma, entitled “Challenges of Unemployment in Malaysia”. In this paper focus was given to the trend of unemployment, key characteristics of the unemployed, and the issue of the retrenchment of workers during the post-crisis period. Malaysia is a growing economy which has succeeded in reducing its rate of unemployment from 7.4% in 1970 to 3.7% in 2001.

After a short coffee break the meeting resumed at 11.00am with session 4, and chaired by a representative from Thailand. Country presentations were made by representatives from Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The Philippines country paper by Dr C.M.R. Atienza was entitled “Challenges of Unemployment in Philippines”. The paper opened with an “Unemployment Profile” of the Philippines, which showed that the average unemployment rate is 11.4% since 2000. Some suggestions were made as to how the problem should be overcome. One major issue highlighted was the issue of migrant labour and overseas employment, in which about 8 million Filipinos have migrated in search of employment.

There was no country paper from Sri Lanka but Prof. S. Hettige gave an impromptu presentation of the unemployment situation in Sri Lanka, and the challenges faced.

The meeting then adjourned for lunch from 12.30pm to 2.00pm. It was continued with session 5, which was chaired by Dr. John Beaton from Australia (later elected next Secretary-General of AASSREC), with presentations being made by representatives from Thailand and Vietnam. This was the last session in which country presentations were made.

The Thai country paper by Dr P. Sirisupluxana was entitled “Labour Force and Unemployment: Issues and Dilemmas”. A profile of the Thai labour force was given. Generally the unemployment rate in Thailand is low, reaching a peak in 1998 during the aftermath of the economic crisis. Issues of gender discrimination in employment in Thailand was discussed. Some of Thailand’s concerns with regard to unemployment and the effects of the Asian economic crisis and globalization were also mentioned.

The last country paper to be presented was by Dr Chu Chi Loi from Vietnam, entitled “Employment and Unemployment in Vietnam”. Vietnam is in a state of transition from a planned economy to a free market economy, in which the process began in the 1980s. This broad structural change in Vietnam’s economy has implications for the employment situation and the labour market in Vietnam. The move towards a free market economy has created employment opportunities and solved some of Vietnam’s unemployment problems. However, the trimming of (redundant) staff in some of the inefficient State Corporations has also created unemployment problems.

After a short coffee break, the meeting resumed with a general discussion on the Challenges of Unemployment, which was opened to the floor. The meeting was chaired by Prof. Inayatullah from Pakistan. During the session, Dr Hazim from the Malaysian Social Science Association argued that ironically, the problem of unemployment reflected the problem of the State, but not of the ‘free’ market. As new-liberal globalists would have it, there should be not only a free flow of goods and services around the world, but also labour. Thus countries which could not solve their own unemployment problem, have no choice but to allow their citizens to become migrant workers in richer countries, despite the exploitative conditions that they might face. Thus the problem of unemployment cannot be solved at the national, but has to be dealt with at the international level through inter-governmental co-operation, if the State is to remain relevant in the face of international market forces. The meeting was adjourned at 5.15pm.

In the evening, the delegates attended a dinner hosted by the President of AASSREC, Prof. Andre Beteille, at the Banquet Hall of Ashok Hotel.

Day 3: Friday, 2nd December 2005

The third day was the final day of the Conference. It started at 9.30am as a closed-door meeting attended only by EXCO members and representatives from each member country of AASSREC. The business of the day was the election of office bearers for the term 2006-2007, and the selection of the next host and venue. PSSM felt honoured that Malaysia was offered to be the next host, but Dr Hazim representing PSSM diplomatically declined on the grounds that unlike other national social science associations which are governmental bodies, PSSM is an NGO, and would require more time and preparation to handle the event. Prof. Kotami from Japan was elected as the next President of AASSREC, and Dr John Beaton from Australia, as the Secretary-General.

After coffee break, the meeting was resumed at 11.30am with a closing ceremony which was attended by all. After the (outgoing) Secretary-General has read the report of the activities of AASSREC for 2004-2005, an official announcement on the President elect was made, and Nagoya, Japan was announced as the next venue of the 17th AASSREC Biennial Conference to be held in 2007. Speeches were then given by the outgoing and incoming Presidents. The session ended with a vote of thanks presented by outgoing Secretary General representing the EXCO, and a delegate from Iran representing the participants.

The meeting ended at 12.30pm