Findings of “Impact of Foreign Workers on the Malaysian Economy” study ignored

As the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announces his New Economic Model tomorrow at the Invest Malaysia conference, he must be reminded that the question of a sensible labour policy is the key to Malaysia’s future growth.

In this context, I regret that the recommendations of an important study – “Impact of foreign workers on the Malaysian economy” – commissioned by the now defunct National Economic Action Council in 2004, have been duly ignored.

The study was conducted at a cost of RM 1.16 million and was submitted to the Government on 29th September 2004. It was conducted by a group of Australian economists.

The report was once available on NEAC’s website for about 2 weeks in 2005 but was subsequently removed from all government sites. It is not clear if it is still an official secret.

Today, there are at least 1.5 million, if not 2.1 million (depending on whose figure you are going by), documented foreign workers in the country while undocumented workers range from 500,000 to 3 million (again, depending on whose figure you are going by and whether migrants in Sabah are included).

While the Prime Minister, in his reply to me on 22nd March 2010, listed seven measures recommended by the report that were implemented, the crux of the 600-page report has been conveniently disregarded.

The report, which compares the migration policies of Saudi Arabia, United States, Germany, Singapore and Australia, recommended that the Malaysian government must address a major contradiction in its foreign labour policy: that Malaysia makes it extremely difficult for the entry of professional expatriates, thus depriving the country the best talents of the world, while allowing near uninhibited influx of unskilled labour.

As the report points out,

“Malaysia must have a migration policy which is able to serve its emerging and future needs as it moves to higher value-added activities in all sectors as well as in new K-economy sectors. Policy therefore must thoroughly understand past role and future directions and possibilities. And the two must be linked.”

I call on the Government to release the study with an update for the Malaysian public to debate the future of our labour policies.

~Liew Chin Tong~

The Malaysian Insider

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