Malaysians are crossing the straits to do Singapore’s dirty work for better pay, while relying on foreign labor to do similar work for them.
More than half a million Malaysians across all sectors opt to work in the city-state as the pay is about five times the amount offered by neighboring countries, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran said in a parliamentary reply Tuesday. That’s what makes them willing to take on even “3D work” -- dirty, dangerous, difficult -- that Malaysian companies are finding difficult to hire locals to do.
The trend has left the country’s plantations and manufacturers sourcing workers from abroad, creating what Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng called an “addiction to low-skilled foreign labor.” The construction industry alone has only been able to hire one-third of the 1.2 million workers it needs, according to the Master Builders Association Malaysia.
Malaysia seeks to tackle the problem by giving monthly wage incentives of as much as 500 ringgit ($120) to workers who get hired locally and up to 250 ringgit for their employers. That’s aimed at reducing the number of foreign workers by 130,000 over five years.
The builders association isn’t optimistic the move will fully resolve the labor issues.
“The measure won’t be too effective in reducing the number of foreign workers, as many foreign workers are employed in jobs which Malaysians are not keen to compete or participate in,” Master Builders Association Malaysia said.