Consider other segments of migrants for employment

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Chin refugees from Burma in Malaysia - Photo credit: hmanthlak picasa

If there’s a human resources shortage now, then employers and officials should consider four segments of people, also migrants, who are already here in the country, says B Jaya.

You mean employers don’t prefer to employ Malaysians? Is it because employers have to pay Malaysians according to the law?

We even hear that some employers fail to pay EPF. Yes, we have heard of this, haven’t we? To circumvent this, employers have started the systemic employment of migrants into the Malaysian workforce and with it comes the abuse of the migrant workers.

How is it that there is hardly any protection for the 20% migrant workforce (as quoted by GMS Triangle)? Many of the workers are working 12 hours, some without overtime, no off days and even very limited access to healthcare. Wages are deducted if they are sick. Indeed, they are easy targets for abuse. In fact, it is good that of late, there is an insurance that covers migrant workers for accidents and in case of death.

Several years ago, when I had the opportunity to associate with migrant workers, I found there was a high rate of sickness, mental illness and even death even among a small group of them. Many of them were in situations of being nearly trafficked, with passports held by employers and agents not renewing their visas – even though they had paid for their permit – and with little access to justice.

These workers would get exploited by many petty gangsters, thieves accosting them at ATMs, added to harassment by some in authority. Migrant workers are often trapped into working, due to the large amounts they’ve forked out towards their recruitment fees.

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Indeed, if a large number of migrant workers are required in the country, it is incumbent on the government to ensure that they are adequately protected.

From employers to high-ranking officials and even ministers, we hear this gobbledegook that Malaysians don’t want to work in those 3D jobs. Come now, fair wages, decent working conditions – heck who won’t work to put food on the table for their families?

(The unemployment rate at 3.3% in December 2015 perhaps should be reviewed. Just take a quick look at one of the popular job portals and check out the number of applicants for some of the jobs advertised. You would know then what the situation here is.)

After all, there is a large number of Malaysians commuting daily across the causeway to work in Singapore. In mid-2015, there were about 350,000 Malaysians working in Singapore; another 386,000 Malaysians have permanent residency status there.

Is it not also true that a large number of Malaysians have migrated to other parts of the world in search of better prospects? According to the Penang Institute 308,834 Malaysian talents had migrated overseas in 2013 alone, a sad brain drain of educated professionals leaving the country, partly due to employers not giving competitive salaries.

If there’s a human resources shortage now, then employers and officials should consider four segments of people, also migrants, who are already here in the country. No need for consultants to do any research; no need for a PhD to figure it out – just some good old common sense!

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Non-Malaysian spouses of Malaysian citizens

Why do their visas come with the statement “prohibited from all forms of employment, spouse of a Malaysian Citizen”? Their families are Malaysian and isn’t the right to livelihood a fundamental right? No employer wants to recruit them with this recorded on their passports, even though immigration says they can work with an endorsement.

Again, why are spouses of Malaysians not allowed to work for the first six months of their long-term social visit pass (LTSVP) or the spouse visa? The difficulties you unintentionally cause are to their Malaysian families. They need to provide for their Malaysian family; money earned by them is spent here in Malaysia.

Refugees

As of end-2015, the UNHCR webpage stated 156,340 refugees and asylum seekers are here in Malaysia. Some of them have been here for decades with their families; why are we not allowing them into the workforce when they are already in the country? Let’s allow this group of people some dignity?

Undocumented workers

If it is said that there are about 1.7m undocumented workers, can they not be regularised and entered into the workforce, since they are here in the country?

International students

At the end of 2014, there were close to 100,000 students studying in both public and private tertiary institutions. These students should be allowed to work to cover some of their living expenses, as are they are in other countries. They face untold suffering in trying to make ends meet. After all, they are here in the country and they would provide a higher level of workforce to the economy.

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Surely these migrants too can contribute to Malaysia’s human capital.

B Jaya is a first generation migrant in Malaysia whose children are fourth generation of their migrant forefathers. She is all for migration that accords dignity to the people who contribute to the growth of this nation.

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