Media Statement by DAP Johor Publicity Secretary and Senai State Assemblyman Wong Shu Qi on 15th February 2016 (Monday):
Government should help Malaysian manufacturing sector the other way round instead of bringing in more migrant workers
If Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi is sincere in helping local manufacturing industry, he should push the government to allocate more to upgrade skills, technology and research and development (R&D) within the industry instead of bringing in another 1.5 million migrant workers. In doing the latter, he is only feeding Malaysians and our local industry sugar-coated poison by defending an irrational manpower policy.
In fact, Malaysia has been trapped in the vicious circle of low-skill, low-wage industrial practice and hence is stucked in the middle-income trap since 1990. The failure of BN government’s industrial policy in the 90s is at the expense of our generation. Instead of empowering local industry by spending more effort in R&D, BN enriched theirs cronies in the most crucial infant stage of the industry. Perwaja is the evidence of the failure. We learned nothing except cloning other nations’ products. Today, our national car is still incapable of competing in the global market.
30 years ago, it was the Indonesians who came over to work in the 3D (dirty, dangerous, and demeaning) sector in Malaysia. Today, fewer Indonesians want to cross over the strait since Jakarta’s minimum wage is already at a competitive level with Malaysia’s minimum wage. We turn to other neighbouring countries whose economies are much worse than us.
A lot of Malaysians are now asking, what’s next? Will there be a day when Malaysians become migrant workers scouting around the world to find better paid jobs to make ends meet at home?
In fact, we are already moving towards this direction. For instance, our nurses prefer to work in Singapore and the Middle-East due to higher salaries there, our engineers work in other much developed economies in R&D and even our bus drivers prefer to go over to Singapore though the nominal wage is almost the same here in Malaysia.
Currently, there are more than 200,000 Malaysians who commute daily between Johor Bahru and Singapore. They mostly work in the manufacturing and service sectors in the republic. Meanwhile, Johor has 300,000 migrant workers who work mainly in manufacturing, construction and service sectors. What makes our local manufacturing and service sectors less appealing to Malaysians? The answers is, low pay.
On the other hand, we must not forget that Johor’s population is only 3 million. The 300,000 migrant workers therefore constitute 10% of the state population and probably is the third largest group in Johor over the Johor Indian community.
Bringing in more migrant workers is a sugar-coated poison. Federal policymakers have neglected the fact that our industry is left behind by the global market. We are still producing at the expense of low-wage and low-skill workers, jobs which no local tertiary educated graduate would be interested in.
The core issue here is not the 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers, but why do we need them? Zahid Hamid claimed that no locals would be interested in 3D jobs. Yet, has Zahid Hamidi look into the working condition of the manufacturing industry? He should not blame Malaysian workers for not taking up those jobs. How can the government blame local tertiary educated generation for not taking up jobs that do not match with their education level and education investment?
The second issue is on the technology we currently employed. Must 3D jobs taken up by cheap foreign labours? If we look at Japan and other more developed countries, we found that the 3D jobs are at least less dirty, dangerous and demeaning. For instances, garbage collector in Japan is also a professional mechanic operating complicated garbage machine. Thus it is a dignified profession.
I can only conclude that, bringing more cheap labour is the laziest policy decision a government can make. It is time for us to reverse the vicious circle by stopping the 1.5 million migrant workers from coming in. Malaysians should force the government to spend a lot more in upgrading our industrial technology. We have no other way out in the global market.
Government should help the Malaysian manufacturing sector the other way round instead of bringing in more migrant workers. Invest in R&D, impose strict export discipline on our heavy industry sector to make our products competitive, and reduce the reliance on cheap labour are the ways out for all Malaysians.
Wong Shu Qi