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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Does Malaysia really need another 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers?

HERE is media statement by Centre For A Better Tomorrow Co-President Gan Ping Sieu on the Government's plans to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers:

The Home Ministry needs to set the record straight on why the country requires 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers and what are the sectors that need them. At present, the government has not been forthcoming about how it arrives at the 1.5 million figure, which sectors these workers will be deployed in and why Bangladeshi workers are favoured over others.

The absence of such explanations naturally arouses public suspicion and uneasiness. Providing the statistics on how many workers each sector needs could help to put our human resource issue in the right context and perspective, thus enabling a rational and healthy debate over related issues.

Clearing the air on these is part of good governance, which CENBET promotes. It further helps to justify the government's policy on foreign labour that has wide socio-economic impact on the country.

We are not against bringing in foreign labour, especially to take up jobs often regarded by locals as dirty, dangerous and difficult. But in the long-run, the country needs a human resource masterplan to reduce our addiction to cheap unskilled labour. They could be in the form of increasing productivity, promoting automation, changing our ways of life or encouraging those who are retired or having spare time to go back to full or part-time employments. Our quest to become a highincome nation should not be done through cheap foreign labour, which is not sustainable in the long-run.

As it is, our working population is around 13 million Malaysians. With 1.5 million being added to the existing estimated 5 million-strong foreign workers now, we would have a 2:1 ratio for local to foreign workers in the workforce. Is this a ratio our nation is comfortable with? The government also needs to factor in costs like subsidies on food and transport which an increased pool of foreign workers would be able to enjoy, but to be borne by taxpayers.

We must refrain from taking the easy way out by perpetually increasing foreign unskilled workers but yet lament about the presence of massive number of foreigners in the workforce with socialeconomic impacts that we would rather do without. It's time the authorities deal with this problem in light of the economic model that we envisage to achieve and what best suits our nation's interest.

By Gan Ping Sieu, a co- president of CENBET and is also a former Deputy Minister of Youths and Sports

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