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Politics

ASEAN labor flows hit a wall with growing migrant crackdown

Malaysia and Thailand left short-handed as foreigners leave en masse

A worker collects palm oil fruit at a palm oil factory in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur.   © Reuters

TOKYO/SINGAPORE/BANGKOK -- Tighter restrictions on foreign labor in Malaysia and Thailand have pushed out millions of Southeast Asian migrant workers, driving up wages and potentially threatening a growth model reliant on freedom of movement and cheap labor.

Malaysia's Top Glove, the world's largest manufacturer of rubber gloves, faces a very challenging increase in labor costs, according to Executive Chairman Lim Wee Chai. Foreign workers account for more than half the company's workforce of 13,000.

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