Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has questioned Putrajaya on the need to bring in 1.5 more million Bangladeshi workers, saying that the exercise went against its policy to have only 15% foreigners in the labour force by 2020.
MTUC secretary-general, N. Gopal Kishnam, said there were already 2.1 million documented foreigners in the country, while another four million are believed to be illegal.
With the arrival of the 1.5 million, he said migrant blue-collar workers will make about 20% of the population.
“Why is there the need to bring in more foreigners, especially from Bangladesh?” he asked.
Gopal said this in response to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s speech in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, in which he said Malaysia preferred foreign workers from Bangladesh as they were more loyal and trustworthy.
The home minister said 1.5 million workers from the South Asian country would arrive the next three years.
Zahid’s ministry is the overseeing authority on the recruitment of foreign labour.
He added that young Malaysians opted to work abroad because of lower wages and the lack of attractive benefits in the country.
Some 350,000 Malaysians travelled daily for work to Singapore, which offers better take-home wages after conversion to the ringgit, he said.
“There are also another 360,000 Malaysians with permanent resident status in the island republic. There must be good reasons why Singapore is relying on Malaysians.”
Gopal said Malaysians working at home would suffer income stagnation as employers continued to rely on cheap labour from foreigners.
“The rise in income level among the working class will be relatively slow and the target of a high income society by 2020 will be a distant dream,” he said.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, tabling Budget 2016 last month, announced the minimum wage increase for private sector workers in the peninsula from RM900 to RM1,000, and from RM800 to RM920 for those in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.
Najib, who is also the finance minister, announced the minimum wage of civil servants to begin at RM1,200.
MTUC has criticised the quantum of increase in the minimum wage for the private sector compared to the increase for civil servants.
Gopal said there would be frequent industrial unrest with more foreigners working in factories, especially in the electronic sector.
“We have come across pockets of wildcat strikes among workers from the South Asian countries. Previously our workers and their unions only carry pickets and yet employers come hard on them,” he said.
He expressed concern about the strain on the national health system as some of the foreigners were known to be the source of communicable diseases, like tuberculosis.
“This is also a form of threat to the nation’s security.” – November 6, 2015.
Source: The Malaysian Insider
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