Uncertain developments for foreign workers in Malaysia

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The Malaysian government is pondering setting restrictions on foreign workers’ remittances. Recently news published on Malaysian media outlets have reported plans the government is making to channel some of monthly the remittances earned by foreign workers into a newly created fund to be managed locally.

Details are still lacking but according to the on line news web site The Malaysian Insider, the government is thinking about setting up some sort of control on the money the foreign migrant workers are able to send home.

Already migrant workers have to pay 100 Ringgit per month to the government equivalent to approximately 2400 NRS per month.

The proposals being under study are aimed at creating a sort of dedicated provident and saving fund for foreign workers.

The idea of deducting more money from the earnings of foreign workers is stirring up lots of controversy. There are those, especially from the Malaysian Employers Federation, are raising concerns about the unfair nature of the provisions under study.

They are worried that foreign workers will not see any concrete improvement in their living conditions out of these new regulations and most importantly they will see a sharp reduction on the amount of money they will be able to send home.

What is the real reason behind these proposals? Is it the creation of the fund going to benefit the wellbeing of foreign workers or is just a way to discourage their presence in the country?

Is it a way of reducing the money being “expatriated” outside Malaysia in time of economic tumults?

Malaysia’s economy is undergoing difficult times and many argue that the country should rely less on labor intensive economy and shift towards more technologically advanced, less labor intensive models.

In time of crisis, there are more and more calls for locals to pick up many menial jobs now being taken by foreign workers.

With the economy faltering and corruption scandals hitting the country and the political landscape experiencing tensions between the ruling coalition and the opposition, the country is living amid an increasing level of uncertainty.

In such scenario it is not surprising to see a higher number of voices demanding for a shift on how the economy is managed, considered by many, to be too dependent on migrant workers.

Moreover, if these new provisions are put in place, there is a high risk that more remittances will be channeled through informal and unlawful outfits that are out of the mainstream financial transaction system. This will pose higher risks on the migrant workers and will contribute to an increase of the “black” economy not only in Malaysia but in all the countries where the foreign workers come from.

Another online news site, Malaysiakini, reports that full medical charges will be soon applied to foreign workers, adding more expenses on their stay in the country.

All these pieces of information make us think that Malaysia is still far from ensuring equal treatment and access to fair opportunities to its foreign workers that, considered just “cheap commodities”, are indispensible for its economy.

Certainly it really seems Malaysia will become in the near future a much less attractive destination for the millions of workers of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and South East countries like Cambodia, Laos.





Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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