Cheap labour bad for economy [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BEGINNING October and over three months, the government will resume its P6 Programme. Half a million illegal Indonesians now detained under the Op Bersepadu exercise will be assigned employers and issued with work permits. Intended to solve the problem of illegal foreigners in the country this move - announced after the meeting of the Home Minister and Indonesia's Minister of Manpower and Transmigration - comes with stringent conditions. Following their registration and employer placement, the workers will be issued a special colour-coded identity card equipped with Radio Frequency Identification and biometric technology, which ends the possibility of job hopping. This ends, too, the possibility of them going off radar and blending into the domestic scene thus ensuring that they play by the rules. Well and dandy!
However, will this stop the flow of illegal entry via the nation's porous borders? It is well known that the shores are entry points for smuggling of not just goods but also human cargo. Can Malaysia's borders be made completely impenetrable? Indeed, as planned by the authorities, the border between Thailand and Kelantan will be fenced off, but is it practical to fence in the whole country? What about the kilometres of shoreline? Securing the border then is no easy job. Patrolling the seas effectively as off the east coast of Sabah requires a naval presence. Otherwise the marine patrols would have to be beefed up substantially. Both measures are costly and would, to all intents and purposes, appear to put Malaysia on a war footing, which seems like a silly proposition. Maybe the real solution is vigilance by both the police and public alike. The aim is to make the country as totally hostile to illegal foreigners as possible.
By the end of the year and with the cooperation of the Indonesian embassy, the problem of Indonesians illegally in the country would have been solved, but what about those from other countries? Will the same approach be used?
One of the main reasons why employers appear enamoured with foreign workers is that they are cheap. But cheap labour is undeniably detrimental to modernisation of the locally owned manufacturing sector. Here traditional is synonymous with pre- industrial operations. The First World meanwhile, which Malaysia hopes to be part of by 2020, is already fully computerised and robots have replaced labour along conveyor belts. Therefore, no good will come of taking a benign attitude towards cheap foreign labour. The P6 Programme cannot but be an interim measure to be stopped as soon as the problem is eliminated.
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