Time to Revisit the Human Resource Policy

It is not wrong to say that Malaysia's economic development is very dependent on foreign/migrant workers. In the 19th and early 20th century, the British colonial government brought in many labourers predominantly from China and India to work in tin mines and plantations.

Since the early 1970's, Malaysia's economic development is largely dependent on migrant workers. Three of the main sectors i.e. plantations, construction and manufacturing rely on cheap foreign labour to remain competitive. Most of our migrant workers are either low or medium skilled.

Today, there are at least 1.5 million documented contract workers and 1-3 million undocumented migrant workers. The latter category is often associated with crime and other social ills. The living condition of these workers are often not well looked into. Many of these workers suffer serious neglect during economic downturn. Many have pawned their properties, borrowed money or paid up huge amount of cash to come to work. There were many cases of foreign workers being duped to come here with promises of lucrative jobs but were abandoned to fend for themselves when they arrived.

Malaysia has adopted an implicit policy of firing Malaysians last. However,we must remember that these foreign workers have contributed significantly to the local economy when times were good. They have helped our local factories to remain competitive during the 1997 financial crisis. Our export sector has done remarkably well until recently.