Economic reform needed to tackle massive exodus of Malaysian working force in Singapore

woodlands checkpoint

Media statement by DAP Johor Chairman and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong on 21 June 2014 in Kluang

In the last session of Parliament, I asked the Home Ministry the number of Malaysians and non-Malaysians who commute to Singapore from Johor Bahru via the Causeway and Second Link.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in his written reply on June 16 said there is an increase in daily border crossing among Malaysia citizen/permanent residents and non-Malaysians into Singapore.

The figure rose from 218,807 commuters (150,893 Malaysians and 67,914 non Malaysians) in 2009, up to 316,774 (221,793 Malaysians and 94,981 non Malaysians) in 2012.


Although daily commuters decreased slightly to 206,136 Malaysians and 91,309 non Malaysians (total 297,445) in 2013, the Malaysia-Singapore border is still one of the busiest checkpoints in the world.

Malaysian labourers who work in Singapore make up the majority of the 300,000 cross-border daily commuters. As Malaysian commuters surged from 150,000 in 2009 to 220,000 in 2012 and 200,000 in 2013, this shows that the Malaysia economy is in a dire state.

The exodus of Malaysian workers across the Singapore checkpoints via Woodlands and Tuas indicates that Malaysia has suffered long term stagnation of wages, which has forced many working class Malaysians to commute to Singapore daily to earn higher value Singapore Dollars.

As the labour-intensive industry continues to expand hand in hand with the government’s massive influx of foreign labourers -legal or undocumented, the wages of low income Malaysians remain stagnant because the employers have no incentive to do raise their wages.

To retain these Malaysian from crossing the border, the government should come up with long-term planning to reduce over-reliance on foreign unskilled labour and increase wages for home grown workers.

In addition, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should be assisted in the process of mechanization in order to increase productivity. Further, measures must be taken to encourage women to fill the gap in the workforce.

Liew Chin Tong

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