Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. At least that’s what quite a lot of Malaysians I know feel about them. Deputy Human Resources Minister, Senator said that there are 1. 403 million foreigners here holding the Temporary Employment Visit Pass, which accounts for 11. 2% of Malaysia’s total workforce. That’s actually quite a lot of foreigners for a country with a 2. 7% unemployment rate as of last year. But it’s no use denying the fact that we need them.
The fact that we still don’t have minimum wage means that there are just too many jobs out there that pay too little (from the perspective of Malaysians) and are considered not worth the trouble by Malaysians. As our cost of living continues to rise against stagnating wages, even fresh graduates earning around RM2,000 will sometimes find it hard to keep things afloat living in Kuala Lumpur, let alone having to survive on a construction worker’s wages.
And even now we can see foreign workers in supermarkets and restaurants, jobs that are considered ‘comfortable’ and not ‘heavy’, but more and more locals are turning away from them simply because in the current economic climate the pay is nowhere near good enough. On the one hand it’s a shame that we prefer being unemployed rather than at least earning something, even if it means working a hard job with not very good pay.
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But on the other hand it’s also understandable why we’d prefer to hold out and keep looking for something better, considering the economic realities that we have to face in our daily lives. The side effect of being dependent on foreign workers is that it puts a strain on a lot of things – public amenities and services especially. They also compete with the poor for low cost accommodation, and the congested living conditions have also contributed to societal and environmental problems.
But blaming things on them will not solve anything. The fact of the matter is, these are men and women trying to make an honest living in a foreign country where their presence is not exactly welcomed with open arms. They had to leave their family behind, live in sometimes abominable and unacceptable conditions, and push themselves to the limit to work as many hours as possible in order to send as much money as they can home to their families.
Try doing that and see if you won’t find yourself in similar social problems should you be in their exact same shoes. It’s easy to blame the ‘other’ when you’re comfortably on the other side of the fence, but not so easy when you really look and try to empathize with them. Trying to combat these problems will definitely cost money, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s just like dousing a raging fire – it’s unlikely that we can totally put a stop to it.
The only way we can avoid these problems is by not having them here or not being too dependent on foreign workforce. Paying the 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and difficult) better wages to attract locals to do it is a start. A good minimum wage is a start too. Of course companies employing foreign workers will moan that this is not good business, but that is why we vote and have a government – to think about how best to solve this dilemma, because what’s a government here for if not to take care of its people?
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Foreign Workers in Malaysia. (2017, May 20). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/foreign-workers-malaysia/