PETALING JAYA: Malaysians should realise that foreign workers are a vital cog in the economy and be treated with some respect, says non-governmental organisations.

The regional coordinator of CARAM Asia, Mohd Harun Al-Rashid, said politicians and the media should be more culturally-sensitive towards the foreign workers.

“They should be treated like guests and valued for their contributions to the economy of the country,” he said.

He was commenting on a report in which Umno Youth chief candidate Syed Rosli Syed Harman Jamalullail was reported to have said that incumbent Khairy Jamaluddin was like a Bangladeshi national working in the country.

Many Malaysians consider “being likened to a Bangladeshi or other foreign labourer” as a jibe or insult.

Malaysia imports labour from Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.

They work in the manufacturing, construction, plantation, agricultural, domestic help and services sectors.

There are an estimated 1.5mil legal foreign workers in the country currently.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardhan said that foreign workers contributed 11.1% or RM30.6bil to the country’s GDP in a study conducted in 2006.

“To a certain extent we are dependent on them especially in the construction and plantation sectors,” he said.

Recently the government announced that it was bringing in 1.4 million Bangladeshi workers into the country starting early next year for the plantation and services sectors via a government to government agreement.
Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam said the foreign workers were doing jobs that locals would not do, and with lower salaries.

“Without them the garbage will never be collected or housing estates will not be built. Without maids, parents will have to find other ways of looking after their children,” he said adding that these workers were also visible in petrol kiosks and restaurants.

He added that if there were no foreign workers in the country, companies would move their operations to other countries.

“Their main intention is to come here and work. They are more productive than the locals. People call them names but the fact is everyone is born equal and should be accorded respect and dignity,” he said.

Tenaganita director Aegile Fernandez said it has been established that the country could not do without foreign workers.

“We are still dependant on them and cannot realize Vision 2020 without them,” she said.

She said society tended to associate them with the wrongdoings in the country, especially crime, even though the police said that they were responsible for a small number of them.

“There is a lot of prejudice and discrimination against foreign workers,” she said.

Source: News coverage by The Star

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