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?
Kota Kinabalu: Both a Barisan Nasional component and the opposition have questioned the rationale behind the proposal to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshis to meet the nation’s labour needs.
They said Sabah, in particular, had no need for Bangladeshi workers to fill the demands in the plantation industry and urged Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to stop the move in view of the consequences that may result, including social problems.
“I can’t recall whether this particular issue was discussed in the Cabinet, but this proposal is not new. Human Resource Minister Datuk Richard Riot also stated previously that Sarawak needs about 20,000 foreign workers from Bangladesh.
“But this is a proposal which is not yet implemented. And we in Sabah, since it is a decision by the Federal Government, had to accept the policy. Even if maybe it is not necessary for the Bangladeshis to come to Sabah, “said State Resource and Information Technology Development Minister, Datuk Siringan Gubat.
“We have enough sources here to work in plantations, especially from Indonesia. We even have illegal workers working in plantations. So if we want to bring in some more from Bangladesh, then in future the numbers of illegals will increase. This problem will surely arise,” he said.
The presence of Bangladeshis in the country causing family break-ups was also raised in a previous Umno Assembly.
Siringan, who is also Paginatan Assemblyman, said thus far, he doesn’t think there is any decision by the State Government favouring Bangladesh workers to Sabah.
He also urged Sabahan youths to take up any opportunity to work in the various departments, especially in the plantation industry in Sabah, in order to limit the need of foreign workers in this state.
“One of the reasons why the Government decided to bring in Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia is because locals are not too keen in working in the plantation industry, especially as farmers. In Sabah, we know this as a fact. Many foreigners are working in the plantation sectors because they are more patient, diligence, hardworking and ready to meet with any challenges in their jobs.
“Compared to locals, we are still lingering in a comfortable state of life. Most locals feel that even if they don’t go out to work in the farms, which mostly located in the East Coast, things will still be fine for them,” he said.
According to Siringan, many are still choosy when it comes to finding jobs, that, even though there are many locals working in the plantation industry, but the demand for workforce is greater, hence the employment for foreigners.
Meanwhile, Sabah DAP Chairman Jimmy Wong said he is disappointed by the Zahid’s claim that Malaysians are lazy and selective about jobs. “I am confident the reason many Malaysians are against working in the sector is because the wages are not equal to the workload and the higher cost of living at present,” he said.
Hence, more and more Malaysians decide to leave the country to look for greener pastures. “The media also reported that some three million Malaysians are overseas looking for better opportunities and this is causing a brain drain, which is a loss for the nation,” he said.
In Sabah, he said many Sabahans have migrated to the peninsula to look for work due to lack of good job offers. Based on the Human Resource Ministry statistics, it is estimated that 6.7 million foreign workers are in Malaysia working in various sectors.
And 4.6 million do not have valid permits against 2.1 million with permits.
“Such figure is surprising, I think the government need not add more foreign workers. Suffice to make upgrades on existing policies and offer better opportunities to Malaysians,” he said.
This, he said will also eventually bring back those who are now working overseas.
For Sabah, he said the government can issue work permits to illegal immigrants, adding that they had always been associated with social ills and housing problems, due to their illegality in the State.
“Bringing more foreign workers in Sabah will add more social problems and weaken the cultural assimilation of Malaysians in the effort to strengthen the rakyat’s unity.
“I am confident with policy change, the government would be able to execute a minimum wage cap and this will positively impact the job market of locals,” said Wong, adding that the Government should not treat its citizens as second class simply to keep the salary scale low.
Source: Daily Express
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