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Addicted to easy profits off the back of cheap labour

We have lost the will to build, sustain and thrive on skilled local workers and local capabilities

Photograph: The roads travelled for work - Women Migrant Workers in Singapore and Malaysia by UN Women Gallery/Flickr

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For decades, we kept forsaking the development of a skilled workforce by relying on cheap migrant labour.  

What began with the fast-growing construction industry soon became a ‘must-have’ model, widely adopted by the plantation sector.

Today, even motor vehicle repair and service centre are filled with migrant technicians and supervisors. Migrant workers feature in almost all technical service areas, including IT, electrical, plumbing, other household repairs. Nothing wrong with that.

Somewhere along the line, though, we have lost the will to build, sustain and thrive on skilled local workers and local capabilities. And we do not seem to care about the looming crisis before us.

The addiction to quick profitability is the underlying cause for sacrificing our youths, many of whom are jobless and unproductive. Many of them lack mechanical, electrical and other crucial skills that have always been the backbone of any nation’s progress and self-reliance.

As long as the political will is absent, this addiction to higher profit margins will remain entrenched. Abandoning our nation’s self-reliance for quick, easy money seems to be the chosen, endorsed mantra. It looks as if we are doomed.

If the world economy crashes or if geopolitical tensions grow strained, social catastrophe could be upon us.

What we are into now may even be worse than the colonial era, when we remained in remote villages, estates and tin mines as cheap, oppressed labour.

Despite rising with independence and a skilled and self-reliant workforce that built modern Malaysia, we have since sought the easy way out – through rent-seeking and profiteering. This has undermined our national reliance, capability and ownership in nation-building.

We are nearing a crisis.

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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
10 Oct 2021 3.20am

Malaysia will be left behind even among Asian countries not to speak of African courtries which are also advancing that’s all. But there is also the issue of the réluctance of SMEs to research and innovate and hence go up the value change if they are open to take-overs when seen as successful by those who want to make Quick money Without doing any work and jump into the rich class. In this context, cheap labour will also continue. I suppose that there is the fear of high unemployment but will this apply if cheap labour is foreign labour. Does foreign labour appear in the calcination of unemplyment in Malaysia?

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