Economic and Social Rights in Asia

Socio-economic rights have been increasingly recognized in constitutions and jurisprudence across the world. South-East Asia represents, however, a partial outlier in this development. The region is only outmatched by the Arab States in its reluctance to recognize socio-economic rights. For core rights pertaining to the workplace, it is the most conservative region in the world. Courts are held generally on a tight constitutional leash with limited recognition of the judiciary’s competence to enforce socio-economic rights. Nonetheless, it is possibly to observe variations amongst the states and apex courts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan have increasingly adjudicated civil and social rights, sometimes in direct and spectacular conflict with mercantilist interests. This development is largely a result of bottom-up legal mobilization and the turn to rights strategies in the post-Cold War period.