Direct hiring of migrant workers  

Published: December 24, 2018 22:17:11 | Updated: December 26, 2018 22:06:20


Unsurprisingly, Kuala Lumpur  takes  the    lead  in  weeding  out    middlemen or agents  from its  pre-existing  migrant   workers'  recruitment policies and practices. In a propitious combination of  circumstances, one may add,  Malaysia  measures  up to  the  need  for  initiating  a  fair   recruitment deal   with the underpinnings of a  productive, secure  work environment for the  migrant workers.

 First and foremost, as the largest employer of migrant labour in the Southeast  Asia region, it had to set a positive  example as  a  host  country. It has  a dependency  on hired workers in its vast plantation and construction sectors where the  locals  are said  to be   averse to be employed in.

Hence, the Malaysian authorities    couldn't but be sensitive  to the  hit  its reputation was taking through  exploitative, abusive   treatment of  workers by the middlemen or the pernicious agency system  synonymous with them. There is an added dimension of human trafficking to be tackled.

The  so-called agencies had extracted  such  high sums from the job seekers, part of which they would have procured from money lenders at exorbitant rate of interest, that the  employees would be  subjected to a modern-day slavery known as debt  bondage. They will be working for years without earning enough for their keeps  nor for their intended beneficiaries at home. Actually, their frequent recourse to  overtime  in a bid to  repay their mounting  debts burst forth as a veritable  scandal  nudging the authorities into realising  what dire strait things have come to!  This is  analogous to  indentured labour being   tied hand and foot by  solely  one-sided  contracts  as though  a throw-back  to a medieval time wrap.

Secondly, and perhaps the  most  forceful   factor  for change in the recruitment  policy for migrants   has been the reform agenda  of the conscientious government led by Mahathir Mohammed. Since he came to power,  Mahathir has been constantly harping on the theme of  alleviating the  plight of migrant workers. So on the back of Nepal's  temporary  suspension of  sending workers to Kuala Lumpur  due to concerns over  their   treatment in light of what their predecessors had faced,  the  Malaysian  government struck a  deal with Nepal  to directly recruit workers from the   Kingdom  without going through   agents.

According to the agreement,  Malaysian employers  will  bear all the recruitment costs,  air fare and visa and medical  check-up  fees. One has to wait and watch how the switch-over works on the ground, viz., in  workplace situation and in terms of salary structure.   

What  augurs well for us  is   the Malaysian  minister for human resources M. Kulasegaran has made it known that   Kuala  Lumpur will be  negotiating  similar agreements with Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. But we need to fortify our deals in a way that we do not have a roller-coaster ride with on-again, off-again regularisation/legalisation   exercises. Let's not forget that there are thousands of workers without work permits.

The   economic wings of our foreign missions   are known to have set targets to fulfil year-on-year basis; how far they are proving equal to  the task  is a matter  to   be audited and  publicised. If their work is hindered in any way, the shortcoming   too should be attended to and redressed.

It can be hardly overemphasised that a  trained crop of   economic cadre  personnel   in    consultation with  skill  development institutes  and  successful enterprises  need  to   chart a course of action to cater for  the manpower requirements  across  continents. How long shall we be confined to servicing   low-end employment opportunities?

 

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