ASEAN Market Watch: Self-Driving Cars in Singapore, Thai Medical Tourism, and Unemployment in the Philippines

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Singapore: Self-driving Car Debuts

The world’s first self-driving taxi was launched in Singapore on August 22 and was open to select individuals for trials. During the test period, members were able to book the vehicles on their smartphones free of charge. The self-driving taxi was launched by a startup called nuTonomy, which become the world’s first company to launch such a service. At present there are six cars in the fleet; nuTonomy wants to grow to 12 vehicles by the end of the year and plans to have a full fleet by 2018, eventually expanding to more cities.

At the moment the self-driving taxis only cover 2.5 square miles and are limited to specific locations such as one-north. Riders that are able to use the service are required to have a specific invitation from nuTonomy. The vehicles are modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi I-MiEV electrics and still have a driver in case something goes wrong, as well as a researcher in the back seat. nuTonomy officials have stated that the wider adoption of such taxis could reduce the number of vehicles in Singapore from 900,000 to 300,000. In launching the self-driving taxis, nuTonomy has beaten Uber and Google, who are also developing self-driving vehicles for the public.

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Thailand: Medical Tourism Shows Strong Growth

In a report released by VISA and Oxford Economics, Thailand’s medical tourism ranks among the likes of Singapore and South Korea. Medical tourism globally has a value more than US$439 million with a projected annual growth rate of up to 25 percent over the next ten years. Three to four percent of the world’s population is expected to travel internationally for health care and health-related treatment. Medical travel market revenue is expected to reach US$3 trillion by 2025 and Thailand looks to benefit from the boom. Medical tourism makes up 0.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

Further studies show that around 1,400,000 U.S. citizens will travel outside the US for medical care in 2016. While the U.S. leads in market share of global healthcare travel spent, Thailand, Singapore, and South Korea capture the lion’s share of incoming patients. Most of the recognized hospitals are set up in Bangkok, followed by Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Samui. Phuket in particular is growing its reputation for medical tourism, and more international hospital chains are expected to set up there. Such hospitals have been developing services beyond cosmetic surgery. Research showed that Australia and China are the two most significant international sources for medical tourism. The growth bodes well for foreign investors, particularly in the medical services industry.

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Philippines: Government Looks to Reduce Unemployment Rate by 2022

The Philippine government is looking to reduce the unemployment rate by as much as four percent by 2022 according to Socioeconomic Planning Chief, Ernesto Pernia. He has stated plans to reduce the joblessness rate gradually from the present 6.1 percent to four or five percent in six years. Pernia also indicated that underemployment needs more focus – a figure currently standing at 18.4 percent as per the Philippine Statistics Authority. Better quality jobs with full time focus should alleviate at least part of the problem and thus reduce unemployment itself.

The World Bank, in its June report, said that relaxed labor laws, improved worker skills, and greater ease of doing business would help open up high quality and better paying jobs as many workers remain in the informal sector. The report further stated that only 15 percent of the country’s poorest citizens secure formal wage jobs against 33 percent employed in the informal sector. The services sector consists of more than half of the jobs in the country; major employers were wholesale, retail trade, vehicle repair, transportation, and storage. In addition, around 23.8 percent of Filipino youth were neither in school or employed – this equals to 4.7 million of the country’s citizens. Analysts have stated that this is an underutilized resource and that the government, businesses, and educational institutions must improve coordination so that the young workforce is better matched with job opportunities.


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