Could Malaysians replace foreign workers at wholesale markets?



Saturday, 16 May 2020 02:11 PM MYT


KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 ― Malaysians do not look forward to a career in wet markets because after years of poor governance, the industry has become unattractive and considered beneath Malaysians, several activists have suggested.

The dirty conditions, poor pays, lack of career advancement opportunities and labour intensive nature of the industry has deterred Malaysians from looking for jobs leaving those opportunities for migrant workers.

Adrian Anthony Pereira of North South Initiative said the issue goes back to the days when Malaysia was a booming agricultural nation where the ministries in charge did not properly market agriculture to the masses.

As such, most of the farmers are aging and since Malaysians do not want to do these jobs the migrants are taking over.

“In Cameron Highlands the farmers are getting old and most of their workers are foreigners. Once they pass on who’s going to take over? It’s the migrants.

“The agro ministries never promoted or regulated the agriculture businesses properly, now there’s corruption and an exploitative manner to it,” Adrian told Malay Mail.

“There are a lot of anti-immigrant sentiments as to who owns the business because the locals have let the migrants run the show because they have no other choice.

“They work 10-15 hours, their hostel is like s**t and they have no break. That’s why most Malaysians absconded from working in markets and I feel the local councils should blacklist these people.”

Meanwhile, Tenaganita’s Glorene Das felt there is a pressing need to increase the amount of wages paid to those in the agriculture and wet market industry.

At the moment foreigners take between RM1,200 and RM1,400 per month ― around the national minimum wage ― while locals ask for more. This will directly correlate with the price of goods as owners will have to increase the price of goods in order to sustain themselves as well.

“The truth is, thousands of Malaysians are willing to endure the 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) jobs in Singapore , so why not in our homeland?

“Thousands stand in queue everyday to commute back and forth from Singapore  to work in sectors which carry out dirty, difficult and dangerous work. The real issue is, as mentioned above ― living wage, fair workplace conditions and reasonable facilities for workers,” said Glorene.

“If there are locals coming forward to do such work, that would be great because we do know many are unemployed.

“However from experience, many locals won’t do the 3D jobs due to poor working conditions and low living wage.

So, apart from increasing the minimum wage the government must also ensure that rights of employees are protected by strengthening workers’ unions.”


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