Why Is The Government Bringing In 1.5 Million Bangladeshi Workers Into Malaysia?

There are currently about 2.8 million migrant workers in Malaysia.

Cover image via The Independent

Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced in June 2015 that a total of 1.5 million Bangladeshi nationals will be brought to Malaysia to meet the growing demands of local employers

“We expect to sign the agreement in the month of Syawal (after July 17) in Dhaka. These workers will be involved in various fields, especially in the plantation sector and will meet the demands of the job market in peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

“However, this initiative only involves fresh workers from Bangladesh. Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants working here are not involved and we will continue to deport them,” he told a press conference in Alor Gajah yesterday.

Ahmad Zahid said the Bangledeshi workers to be brought into this country would be trained in Bangladesh to become semi-skilled workers to meet specific requirements of employers in Malaysia.

The employers would be subjected to four conditions namely, the Bangladeshi workers must be given insurance coverage; be provided centralised housing, their salary paid via banks and provided with adequate protection.

The intake of foreign workers into Malaysia have increased tremendously over the years, with many coming in mainly from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia to work as blue collar workers in various local industries

MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan

Image via The Malaysian Insider

In an interview with Malaysian Digest, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, said there are currently 2.8 to 2.9 million migrant workers in Malaysia. Foreign labour, especially the blue-collar workers, contributes quite significantly to the national economy as they contribute about 10%-11% to national economy.

“Despite the fact that they actually contribute positively to our country, there is still uneasiness among some Malaysians on the presence of foreign workers. In general, the perception of Malaysians towards migrant workers has been quite negative,” he admitted.

“Many blaming fingers are pointed on them when migrant workers and its impacts on our society are being brought up. In fact, in many circumstances, the mere mention of migrant workers is usually greeted with a smirk and negativity.

“Some even believe that the influx of foreign workers is the main culprit of the increasing of crime rates in the country. I must say this is an untrue fact or statement in essence because the cases of crime involving migrant workers is only less than 10% of the total crime cases nationwide,” he said.

With the general negative stereotype surrounding foreign workers in mind, Malaysians have expressed great disappointment over the steady increase of foreign workers in the country.

So, why do we need all these migrant workers?

Image via Dhaka Tribune

They are usually brought in as manual labourers to fill up positions in the construction, plantation or the restaurant industry. The sight of a Bangladeshi construction worker or an Indian waiter has become all too common, with most of these industry leaders specifically looking for workers of these nationalities to fill up the vacancies.

While Malaysians have been complaining about the high unemployment rate in the country, with some blaming it on the high intake of foreign workers, government officials have stressed that locals are usually not interested in jobs that involve "dirty, dangerous and difficult" work.

To fill up the vacancies and ensure that these industries continue to flourish, the government is forced to bring in foreign workers that are willing to take up these jobs for lower pays.

Disagreeing with the move to increase the number of foreign workers, Malaysian Trades Union Congress's (MTUC) N. Gopal Kishnam, said that this might affect the nation's Vision 2020 goal of increasing the minimum wage of workers

Malaysian Trades Union Congress's (MTUC) secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam

Image via The Malaysian Insider

"I am not in agreement with the government's proposal to bring in 1.5 million (workers from Bangladesh). This is as big as the population in Kelantan. I don't see the reason why we have to do this when we already have so many illegal immigrants," said Gopal who is MTUC's secretary-general.

"Local workers have no hope to find jobs as employers like to hire those they can pay cheaply," he told The Malaysian Insider.

"This always happens and Malaysia will not achieve developed nation status by 2020 where one of the goals is to raise workers' salaries," Gopal added.

However, Home Ministry has assured that job opportunities for the locals will not be affected by the import of labourers from Bangladesh

The ministry also said that labour market equilibrium would not be affected by the move, as they would only be allowed to work in five formal sectors, namely construction, manufacturing, farming, agriculture, and services.

"The proposal to bring in 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh was made after taking into consideration the development of the national economy and the needs of the respective industries to fill positions that are not popular with locals.

"However, the government will also be cautious in this matter, so that job opportunities for locals are not affected, and always remain protected" the ministry said in a written reply to a question from Sim Tze Tzin (PKR-Bayan Baru), which was circulated in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Meanwhile, DPM Zahid Hamidi revealed that local employers prefer Bangladeshi workers as they are said to be more "trustworthy and loyal" compared to those from other countries

Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Image via Malay Mail Online

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi refuted claims that the government's aim to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers is profit-oriented.

On the other hand, he said the decision was made based on the demand from the employers' association itself who were prompted to opt for foreign workers from Bangladesh.

"Let's not be too easy to accuse that this is about money, this is about modern slavery... the government always endeavour to find means so that these situations do not take place," he said when winding up the debate on the 2016 Supply Bill at the Dewan Rakyat here, Wednesday, 4 November 2015.

Championing the importance of the local language, Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali thinks that foreign workers must pass a Bahasa Malaysia proficiency test before being allowed to work locally

Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali

Image via The Malaysian Insider

"From hotel to the food stalls, everyone is hiring migrant workers. What is so sad is that many of them do not know the mother tongue of the country.

"Supposedly, they should get a national language proficiency certificate before they can work in Malaysia," he said in a statement today.

According to reports, the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bangladeshi government will be signed sometime within the month

The Bangladesh cabinet approved a draft deal for ‘G2G (Government-to-Government) Plus’ that will allow private firms to send workers to Malaysia through government arrangement.

The Bangladesh government hopes to send 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia under this deal over the next three years, Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam briefed reporters on Monday.

In addition, the expatriation cost for each will be a maximum of RM1,985. Employers will bear the full cost for expatriation.

The new deal will recognise Bangladesh as a “source country,” the cabinet secretary said. “Before this, Bangladeshis could only work in plantation sector in Malaysia. But after this recognition, they can work in the service, manufacturing and construction sectors.”

As Malaysians continue to debate about the increasing number of foreign workers in the country, the pressing dilemma with undocumented workers continues to grow:

Also, did you know there are about 2.07 million foreign workers in Malaysia?

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