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Cheap, exploited labour cannot build a sustainable nation

We as a nation have failed to honour and cherish the gift of labour

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

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Malaysia has long depended on the availability of cheap labour to build the country reaping easy profits and rapid development.

Along with the ease of access to cheap labour comes untold stories of misery from migrant workers from the Asean region and other countries such as India and Bangladesh too.

The recent engagements with Indonesia and Malaysia’s unwillingness to enact laws to protect even domestic workers show how much we lack the political will to ensure that a culture of honour and care takes root here.

Despite six decades of touting a progressive governing model, the nation still has not given domestic workers some basic labour rights, leading to numerous reports and unaccounted cases of abuse.

Many private sector enterprises – from plantations to manufacturing to construction firm – are stained with the sins of much abuse.

You don’t have to be a religious scholar to know this painful truth.

When ‘white flags’ are flown by migrants – alongside our own citizens’ cry for desperate aid – we must own up to having failed humanity.

When Covid clusters break out among migrant workers’ colonies, we suddenly realise their living conditions are pathetically inhumane. This is the benchmark of decades of abuse.

Despite all the politically correct statements from the government, we as a nation have failed to honour and cherish the gift of labour.

Profiteering through cheap, easily available migrant labour while abusing human labour with impunity and taking cover under a systemic culture of greed, corruption and selfishness cannot take Malaysia to the next frontier of development.

READ MORE:  Establish migrant worker affairs division in human resources ministry

We seem to be a failing culture despite the grandiose and increasing number of places of worship.

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