This Penangite Would Rather Sell Chicken Rice In Singapore Than Be An Engineer In Malaysia

"Cost of living is high, but the pay hasn't changed since the 80s."

Cover image via AFP/Roslan Rahman

Many young Malaysian graduates have been travelling to Singapore on a daily basis to do '3D' (dirty, difficult and dangerous) jobs, the same kind of work that migrant labourers are expected to do in Malaysia

Traffic at Singapore Causeway.

Image via Straits Times

When Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia needed migrant workers because local youth shunned manual labour, Zul could only shake his head in disbelief.

Zul, 22, crosses the gridlocked Causeway from Johor Baru to Singapore every day for three years for one sole reason, the higher salary.

"I earn way more than I ever did in Malaysia. Even though the work is tough, the salary makes up for it," Zul told The Malaysian Insider when met in Woodlands, Singapore, recently.

"It's not true that Malaysians are unwilling to do 3D work. Otherwise, why do you find so many Malaysians in Singapore and Australia looking for such jobs? It's because the pay in Malaysia is not enough."

Just last week, a 27-year-old Malaysian engineer from Penang, spoke about how he is moving to Singapore to start selling chicken rice, as the move has the potential to increase his monthly income

Photo used for illustration purposes only.

Image via The Wandering Palate

“After eight years in this field, it’s time for a change. The economy is slow. It’s tough asking for higher pay here. I tried to apply for an engineering position in Singapore but bosses there say they can get two engineers from China for the salary I’m asking. So, I’ll sell chicken rice there instead.”

He thinks he’ll earn more in Singapore with a basic pay of SGD1,500 (RM4,500) and a commission of SGD0.50 (RM1.50) for every plate of rice sold.

“My accommodation, food and health care are all taken care of. The stall and ingredients are all provided.”

His resignation came as a surprise to his colleagues but his family was supportive of his decision

They told him gaining new experiences is good as age is on his side.

Asked if he feels his science education is wasted, he says it’s something he can always fall back on.

“Now, what’s important is to earn as much as I can. I’m not bothered about job status.”

Meanwhile, Mohd Yusof Zakaria, 39, explained that taking up a job in Singapore, has allowed him to buy a car and a house in Malaysia

Mohd Yusof Zakaria said he tried to work in Malaysia, but gave up after three years of earning just RM30 a day as a lorry driver.

"After taking up a job in Singapore, alhamdulillah, I was able to buy a house and a car."

"The problem in Malaysia is the salary, it's just too little, and it’s not worth our effort. Cost of living is high, but the pay hasn't changed since the 80s," Mohd Alias, 43, said.

"If you pay us RM50 a day for contract work, how are we supposed to feed ourselves?"

A few weeks ago, several NGOs claimed that about 600,000 Malaysians are more willing to do blue-collared jobs in Singapore, where wages are compensated according to job scopes

Pertubuhan Rapat Malaysia president A. Rajaretinam (right).

Image via Saw Siow Feng/The Malay Mail Online

Pertubuhan Rapat Malaysia President A Rajaretinam said it was wrong to think Malaysians would not take on such jobs here as the figures of people working in menial positions in the island republic proved otherwise.

"There are around 600,000 Malaysians working in Singapore everyday in 3D sectors. If they can do that in Singapore, why they can't do that here?

"We must understand the reality behind this. Even youths from Kelantan go all the way to Singapore to work there," he said.

“If the salary offered is adequate, I’m sure many youths will consider such jobs,” Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam Se Malaysia (Gamis) president Muhammad Afiq Awang Bakar said, calling for a RM1,500 minimum wage.

However, a recent report by The Sun, revealed that both Malaysia and Singapore offers the same salary figures for blue-collar jobs, debunking the idea that most Malaysians have about how Singapore pays more for 3D jobs

According to statistics, the salary figures for blue-collar jobs in both Malaysia and Singapore are about the same without considering the exchange rate.

People are willing to take up similar 3D jobs down south because of the attractive Singapore dollar, which is made relatively stronger due to the ringgit's depreciation.

But given the exchange rate of one Singapore dollar to more than three ringgit, the same 3D jobs are three times more attractive just across the causeway. It is still attractive after taking foreign worker levy into consideration.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi challenged Malaysian youths to take up the '3D' jobs that are usually aimed at migrant workers:

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government said that the recruitment of all foreign workers, including those from Bangladesh have been suspended, just a day after signing an agreement with Bangladesh for taking in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers on 19 February:

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