Effect of Foreign Workers in Malaysia


23 Mar 2015 11 Dec 2017

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Malaysia's economy expanded rapidly in recent years. Giant development projects run smoothly. As a result, there is a wide range of employment opportunities and labor shortage problems. Malaysia is among 10 countries listed as the top employer of foreigners in the world. Nowadays, we can meet with foreign workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and China who are working in various low-paying sectors such as laborers, factory workers and maids. The number of foreign workers in this country totaled to 1.85 million people with Indonesia immigrants of 1.2 million people followed by Nepal of 200,000 people. All of them include those from Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and countries in Africa. The problem of illegal immigrants is accepted in many developing countries and also in developed countries like the United State (U.S.) and Australia. U.S. for example, is addressing the crisis of illegal immigrants of 12 million people without valid documents. Congress has approved legislation that outlines three key steps to address the problem of illegal immigrants: Repatriation of their native country, the construction of large-scale fence along the border of the United States and Mexico to block the entrance and also more severe criminal penalties on employers who hire them. According to economic experts, the U.S. economy would be crippled if the law is enforced because the majority of workers are concentrated in the agricultural sector and the construction of the immigrants. A recent study conducted by the American Federal Bureau of Plantation shows that actions against illegal immigrants would have resulted in a loss in the country's agricultural production from $ 5 to U.S. $ 9 billion over the next three years and may reach U.S. $ 12 billion over the next four years.

These foreign workers seek employments in countries with a lot of economic opportunities, particularly construction, farming, and business services. Foreign workers could be classified into two category; who came legally and illegal immigrants.


The type of work for workers who come legally are generally determined for them, who their employer is, their place of residence and has been through various processes to meet the qualifications as an employee. They are then given a work permit which specify the duration of their work in this country. This type of category of workers has valid travel documents, free of contagious diseases, has a valid employment contract and does not bring many problems to the public. Employers are also more liable to provide shelter, food and medical services.


Immigrants who do not go through the same processes as the first category. They also do not have valid travel documents, has a high risk of infectious diseases such as TB (tuberculosis) and easily exploitable. Government have to bear the cost of arrest and delivery of illegal immigrants to their home countries, simply because they were arrested for various immigration violations and criminal charges. The cases are more complicated as the image of negative implications on the country of origin of immigrants.


Malaysia has become the focus of foreign immigrants who wish to seek lucrative income. But the entry of illegal immigrants has caused many problems. Public concern is not new immigrants. It arises due to the negative perception of the country's population of this group is often associated with various social problems. But no worries it is not fundamentally.

During the olden days, in the villages, the presence of illegal immigrants especially Indonesian immigrants are said to contribute to the occurrence of loss of property and burglary. On the other hand, Bangladesh immigrants cause parents and husbands to fear for the safety of their daughters and wives who might get tangled in a love affair. The main problem is the difficulty faced by the government to curb the entry of these illegal immigrants. Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), the Police and the Immigration Department have work hard to apprehend them. They are arrested and placed in temporary detention camp. The arrival of immigrants, especially those without licenses causes housing problems. They will establish a residential area illegally. Some migrant groups also open forest areas as housing areas. These slum areas are not organized and lack basic services such as waste disposal systems and wastewater. Thus, environmental pollution will occur. In addition, the development of our country will be futile due to the emergence of the squatters. The image of our country will be affected as this reflects the weakness of the government administration and distribution of economic imbalance. There is also a rich area of illegal settlements, complete with electricity, and water.

The right of the people in Malaysia will be affected. Employers prefer to hire illegal immigrants in the plantation sector, construction, and domestic helpers because their salaries are much lower. This would affect the employment opportunities of our citizens even though not a lot are interested in this job. In addition, many of them engage in the business, such as food stalls, selling jewelry, decorative lights, batik and more. In fact, some of them have become rich, have large abode without paying large income tax. At a time when our currency fell in value tremendously, the employment opportunities become narrow; this is unfair to the citizen of Malaysia.

The presence of those who is labeled as illegal immigrants do not just live in the country's 'gold mine' to find their income, but also harbor a variety of social problems, crime and health as well as other descendants in Malaysia. The problem of illegal immigrants is accepted in many developing countries as well as developed countries like U.S. and Australia. For example, laws has been implemented in the U.S., unfortunately, this law has many great opposition from those who fight for the rights of this group. Demonstrations involving thousands of tribes that support illegal immigrants on the 1st of May which they called as "A day without illegal immigrants’ was accompanied by the owners of companies that are predominantly illegal immigrant labor. Owner of this great company claims that the role of illegal immigrants should be recognized for their contributions in the U.S. economy.


The same scenario is also happening in this country, a total of 2.4 million reported (including illegal immigrants) are now focused on the most important sectors in generating economic growth; plantations, construction and manufacturing. Imagine the impact that would be borne by the country's economy if foreign labor is taken away suddenly out of the three sectors?

We recognize that the increase in crime rates lately is related with the influx of illegal immigrants. However, it is not easily resolved, as most people think. As usual, the turmoil raised involving illegal immigrants is due to the attitude of our people. Not many among us who are willing to do what is done by these foreign workers.

In the plantation sector, for example, very few of us who are willing to sweat profusely under the hot sun compared to the foreign workers. Even in the construction sector, developers are complaining due to the shortage of local workers. In fact, the government does not have much choice in inhibiting crime by illegal immigrants. After all, hiring foreign labor is cheaper than domestic labor.

Sometimes the attitude of employers who wants a big profit also contributes to this problem. For example, the act of employing 1,700 workers who had completed their work permits by the glove manufacturers who are listed on the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia's, which is Top Glove Corporation Bhd. There is a probability that there are many more employers involved in such activities, but cannot be detected by the authorities.

In addressing the problem of crime by illegal immigrants, the measures to be taken should not be detrimental to any party. We need to recognize that the services of foreign workers are needed to generate our economy. What can be done now is to restrict the entry of new immigrants, and at the same time ensure that existing illegal immigrants have legal status.

If the rising crime rate is said to be linked to an influx of immigrants, other than to obstruct them in detention, a more drastic measure needs to be taken in the long term.

Research in Australia (a country which is flooded by immigrants from Asia) found that there is no increase in crime rates associated with this group. This is contrary to previous claims that the incidence of crime in the country has to do with Asian immigrants. The study found that contrary to the attitude of local residents to view with suspicion, resentment and fear (xenophobia) against Asian immigrants that contribute to crime. As a result of the attitudes of local residents who refuse to accept them in society, these immigrants feel isolated, frustrated then vent their anger by doing criminal acts against the local population. Thus, Australia's migrant crime involving the public is more than a crime against property. The study of the phenomenon of crime and illegal immigrants in this country is to reduce negative perceptions and xenophobia against them and to be more prudent to accept them in society.


Some of these illegal immigrants are criminals who are required by the authorities in their home countries. They fled to Malaysia to escape the invasion of their home country authorities. Unfortunately, they continue to commit crimes here. Cases of robbery, murder, and rape often occur. Trauma victims will have to bear it all the time. Even some of the housing areas are broken into every night for a long period of time. This cause the local residents live in fear. A criminal case such as Indonesian citizens shot dead during a police raid is not unusual anymore.

In fact, we had to deploy troops to Semporna, Sabah, to face the Filipino pirates who use sophisticated weapons to commit robbery in broad daylight. Attractions for lucrative income in Malaysia will lure foreign workers to take the necessary actions to get here, whether it is legal or not. Some use "ant-lane" on the border for national security, cheat educational studies passes, using a temporary visit passes and marry local citizens.

There are many reasons why a lot of criminal cases involving foreign workers. Among them were financial difficulties. Living in a big city with a small income is a burden. It is not wrong if we assume that immigrants who are eager to get rich quickly without thinking about sin and the difficulties experienced by victims. Fighting among ethnic groups from the same countries also occur due to discontent and revenge. Sometimes little things can lead to death, just like what happened not long ago where an immigrant died because fighting to get into a toilet. This particular incident involved workers from Myanmar.

Demand in critical sectors such as construction and farming is a description depends on the extreme nature of the construction workforce. Immigrants’ total about 600,000 people can only give feedback and negative public perceptions of government. Government efforts, such as forgiveness, whipping and freezing of new recruitment of foreign workers have not prevented more illegal immigrants to make a living in this country.

In fact, an increasing number of foreign workers, particularly immigrants who came to Malaysia show that there is a failure of prevention and control program to curb this problem. Intelligence agencies involved in enforcement actions have not been able to provide solutions to reduce the presence of these immigrants. Do we need to wait for the influx of foreign workers and immigrants to create chaos and spread diseases before finding a solution? Or is this phenomenon a side effect before we become a fully developed country by 2020?

Similarly, cases of minor crimes such as theft, robbery, rape, steal, proximity and adultery are often heard. These additional activities have been disturbing the harmony of Malaysian society and motivate a small number of them to join together to accomplish a crime. In Kedah, for example, a husband and wife arrested for conspiracy because they were helping a group of immigrants from Kuala Lumpur to commit crimes, housebreaking and robbery. The result of these robberies and acts are equally distributed and continue to repeat from time to time until they are arrested.


Foreign embassies are not fully cooperating. Foreign embassies refuse to issue temporary travel documents to people so they can be sent back. Foreign embassies are also reluctant to finance the cost of repatriation. A lot of energy, money, and time are wasted in the government's efforts to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants.

Some of those who have been working in this country are known to take business opportunities from local people. These conditions give a rise to dissatisfaction of local people who cannot wait for authorities to investigate and to take action, whether it is only a warning or thrashing the immigrants. Of course, they have a reason such as no permit, disturbing the local businessmen who have business licenses and the cleanliness of the food provided is not satisfactory. Eventually more foreign workers and immigrants opened their own village, send their children to government schools, using government health services and creating new slum areas.

Infectious diseases will be spread widely. Illegal foreign workers will be subject to medical examination. Instead, illegal immigrants do not do so. Many of them came from rural areas in their home countries. Their health is less assured. Some of them suffer from AIDS, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, and so forth. As a result, our people could be their victims. Statistics have shown that the number of people suffering from tuberculosis increased again. Many illegal immigrants are found to be carriers of HIV and hepatitis virus. Their sexual relationships with the local prostitutes will accelerate AIDS infection.


To solve social problems posed by the Immigrants and foreign workers involves cooperation of three parties, namely the government, private sectors and the public. Here are the field, duties and responsibilities:

a. Government. As the former agency, guards and implementing policy has a huge role to ensure the full inclusion of Immigrants barred. Government has the ability to form and control laws but poor in implementation. Even though there are many prevention programs being implemented, such as bleaching and amnesty programs, there are many illegal immigrants still smuggling into this country. Enforcement agencies have to work hard to curb the inflow of immigrants from all entrances to ensure no one enters the country illegally.

b. Private sector. Responsible for ensuring their employees are involved in the construction and plantation sectors have valid work permits and to give priority of local workers. If they ignore the legitimate interests of workers, the occurrence of an employer who received TB can be avoided. This event shows those who want to get cheap labor without a medical examination, a migrant can spread the disease quietly.

c. Society and company. Society can provide information and to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to facilitate the eradication operations from time to time. They should not think what will be rewarded if they cooperate because the responsibility of combating illegal immigration is also a part of their responsibility. The cooperation of the employer is required to assist the government for the common good. The authorities should have a comprehensive database system of immigrants in this country. Migrants sent home to their home countries may reduce some criminal charges, but this move is not good for economic growth. Unless people in this country who are still unemployed fulfill this place.


The entry of foreign workers into the country is a global phenomenon in today's era of the borderless world. We cannot prevent the entry of foreign workers because of their attractive offer such as cheap labor and the skills they possess. However, to curb the entry of foreign workers who do not want to register is a big challenge for us because they can trigger more serious social problems in the future. The three parties, namely the government, the private sectors and the public should collaborate and find solutions such as awareness programs to empower the grassroots and at the same time improving the role of law enforcement agencies so that Malaysia is free from illegal immigrants.

Flood and overflow of illegal immigrants is a common thing now. We as people of Malaysia should miss the atmosphere of the early 1980's when it is difficult for us to see any illegal immigrants. As a Malaysian we must reaffirm the spirit of solidarity to protect our country from invasion regardless whether it is explicit or implicit.


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