Economy of Southeastern Asia


Brunei is a hereditary sultanate where the sultan is a dictator. Oil and gas are the country’s most important sources of income. Trade union rights are severely curtailed.


Country Facts

State condition: Monarchy

Surface: 5,765 km2

Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan

Language: Malay (official language), in addition to Chinese and English

Labor market and economy:

Oil and gas revenues have made the country rich. The income from the state-owned companies finances schools and healthcare. The country also has large resources of natural rubber. There is no income tax and no VAT in the country.

In Brunei, there are about half a million migrant workers who mainly work in the construction sector and the service industries. These live on a standard that is far inferior to their own population. The majority of migrant workers come from Indonesia.


Myanmar (Burma) became independent in 1948. From 1962 to 2011, the country was ruled by military junta. In the 2015 election, the National Democratic Union led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi won. Several minority groups are persecuted. In 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh. In recent times, new democratic unions have emerged, but the trade union movement is weak.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 678,500 km2

Capital: Rangoon (Nay Pyi Taw is the administrative capital)

Language: Burmese and several minority languages

Labor market and economy:

The conditions for a positive economic development are good. Myanmar is a country rich in natural resources, where 80 percent of the world’s total teak resources are found, but also tin, coal, tungsten, lead, zinc and precious stones.

According to COUNTRYAAH, the country has a large workforce and wages are a third compared to neighboring Thailand. This has led to many foreign companies establishing themselves in the country, including several clothing companies. Another growing source of income is tourism. Many new jobs have been created in the growing hotel and tourism industry.

An obstacle to continued economic development is the low level of education, among other things there is a great shortage of people with technical education. Another problem is widespread corruption.


Cambodia is one of East Asia’s poorest countries. However, the textile industry has grown rapidly and contributed to economic growth. The trade union movement is divided, but there is, among other things, a strong union for clothing workers.


Country Facts

State condition: Constitutional monarchy, multi-party election

Surface: 181,000 km2.

Capital: Phnom Penh

Language: 95 percent speak Khmer.

Labor market and economy:

Agriculture accounts for close to half of GDP. Widespread corruption has hampered industrial development. In recent years, however, the textile industry has grown rapidly. The textile companies from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore have mainly invested in the country, but H&M also has extensive production in the country. There are currently about 700,000 employees in the country’s garment factories, most of them in the area around the capital Phnom Penh.

In recent years, protests have increased against the low minimum wage in the clothing industry. In the autumn of 2015, the protests led to an increase in minimum wages. The protests continued, however, and led to a new increase in 2018. Today, the minimum wage corresponds to approximately SEK 930 per month.


Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and the country in the world that houses the most Muslims. Since the overthrow of dictator Suharto in 1998, Indonesia has been a democracy. There is a free trade union movement in the country, but there is a split between many different competing unions.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 1 919 440 km2

Capital: Jakarta

Language: Bahasa are official languages, in addition many local languages ​​are spoken, the largest of which is Javanese.

Labor market and economy:

Indonesia was hit hard by the Asian crisis in 1997 and the global financial crisis in 2009. Since then, the economy has recovered and economic growth has sometimes been rapid. In parts of the country, rapid industrialization and major investments in infrastructure are now taking place. The fastest development is on the island of Java and especially around the capital Jakarta. Another area of ​​rapid economic growth is the island of Batam near Singapore. The whole island is part of an economic free zone with low corporate taxes and generous customs conditions. Batam has today become a global center for the electronics industry, shipyards, oil industry and more.

Indonesia today has a workforce of about 130 million people. Unemployment has gradually fallen and in recent years has been around 5 percent. At the same time, the informal sector is large. Half of the workforce is there. The level of education is also low, only 9 percent of those in work have a university degree.

In other parts of Indonesia, unemployment is high. One factor that hinders development is widespread corruption. With bribes, most things can be bought – from higher school grades to rulings in the courts. The country’s external debt is high, but there has been strong opposition to the IMF’s demands for internal restructuring. This has led to the country leaving the IMF, even though cooperation with the IMF will continue.


Laos is a poor agricultural country in Indochina. Parliamentarism has been introduced, the largest party being the Laotian Revolutionary People’s Party, that is, the Communist Party. The trade union movement is weak.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 236,000 km2

Capital: Vientiane

Language: Lao is the official language

Labor market and economy:

Laos is one of Asia’s poorest countries. In the capital Vientiane and around the Mekong River, however, there has been some economic development. Several foreign companies have invested in the growing textile industry as the country’s economy has been liberalized. But in rural areas, development is largely stagnant. A major practical problem is the lack of roads and communications. Electricity is developed only in the cities. Laos also has no coast and few rivers.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has approved a $ 76.2 million loan to develop a Laos copper mine. The decision has led to criticism from a number of environmental organizations who believe that the mine will harm the environment and the local population in the area. The planned copper mine is located in the province of Savannakhet near the border with Vietnam. 80 percent of the mine will be owned by the Australian mining company Oxiana. Since 2002, the same company has operated a gold mine nearby. That mining project has led to deforestation and forced the local population to relocate. Now critics fear that the planned copper mine will lead to the same negative effects but on a much larger scale.