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The Malaysian Trades Union Congress suggests raising the wages for workers to RM2,700 monthly to incentivize local Malaysians to take on jobs that is usually filled by foreign labourers.
Recently, the government has laid a blanket freeze on the intake of foreign workers, especially since a Covid-19 cluster outbreak was linked to foreign workers at a wholesale market. As of yet, the freeze has not been lifted and is still in place.
Yet as the economy slowly moves along again, there’s a fear that the blanket ban on foreign workers will cause a labour shortage and stifle the expansion of certain industries.
The natural solution to the problem is hiring local workers, but the matter of the fact is that local Malaysians do not want to do 3D (dirty, dangerous, and difficult) jobs for such low pay.
It’s not that Malaysians are lazy and unwilling to put in the work, clarifies secretary-general J Solomon.
Thousands of Malaysians work dirty, dangerous and difficult (3D) jobs every day overseas, from Singapore to Australia to South Korea.J Solomon, secretary-general of Malaysian Trades Union Congress
In other countries, Malaysians are the foreign workers, taking on low-wage jobs. Yet because other countries maintain a strict policy on wages and working compliance, even low- or minimum-wage jobs overseas might be better than a white collar job in Malaysia, in terms of pay.
Solomon notes that local labour work has to be improved to make it a worthwhile consideration for Malaysians. Specifically, workers will have to be paid better and working conditions have to improve.
He suggests basing the living wage around the cost of living within a specific area. For example, those working in cities like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, and Penang, should have a basic take-home pay of not less than RM2,000 due to the higher costs of living.
Additionally, labour workers should be employed on a full-time basis instead of contract, which will grant them benefits like EPF contributions, Socso protection, medical coverage, and accommodation.
This isn’t the first time the minimum wage in Malaysia has been called into question. Currently, the minimum wage is at a mere RM1,200. It was just “generously” increased from RM1,100 in December 2019.
However, many still criticise that the minimum wage is too low. Bank Negara Malaysia notes in a study that living wages in the Klang Valley should be at a minimum of RM2,700 for a single adult.
A living wage basically means a wage that is appropriate to the cost of the current living standard, not just the minimum wage legally required by law.
And especially since the cost of living has been rising steadily, it should only make sense that wages increase as well.
It’s pretty well-known that our salaries and wages have stagnated while costs of living have been increasing, but that shouldn’t be so easily accepted. It’s time to stop normalizing low wages in Malaysia and ensure better working conditions for everyone involved.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.