We’ve been work buddies since the 90s’.
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Bangladeshi expatriates who returned home prior to the Covid-19 pandemic are demanding to come back to Malaysia to work.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered at Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry office in Dhaka on November 2, 2020.
It’s said that more than 25,000 migrant workers are stranded with expired visas and are jobless as travel restrictions prevent their return.
In September, the Malaysian government had imposed a temporary travel ban on 23 countries, including Bangladesh in response to Covid-19 outbreaks.
Protestors are also requesting financial assistance from their government as the pandemic disrupts the country’s economy.
An estimated 100 million people in Bangladesh are burdened by economic and health risks with more than 50 million individuals living in extreme poverty.
Malaysia and Bangladesh have a long standing working relationship.
Since the 90s’, the two nations had formally agreed on large-scale labour migration where job-seeking Bangladeshis entered Malaysia to work in the agriculture, manufacturing and construction sectors.
Migrant workers were also coming from other parts of Asia like Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
The influx of foreign labour was attributed to Malaysia’s economic growth, resulting in better education and employment.
Experts summarised that Malaysians began avoiding “low-status” jobs in favour of better work opportunities and would themselves emigrate to higher-income countries.
In 2019, the Malaysian Department of Statistics (DOSM) estimated that Malaysia’s workforce comprised of 13.3 million locals and 2.3 million foreigners.
Estimates also put between 200,000 to 800,000 Bangladeshis currently living in Malaysia.
Besides the issue of xenophobia and undocumented foreigners employed here illegally, in 2018 Malaysia had effectively suspended recruiting Bangladeshi workers, citing corruption as well as allegations of human trafficking and exploitation of migrants by hiring agencies.
The recruitment “syndicates” are blamed for monopolizing the migrant hiring process and charging Bangladeshis fees of up to RM20,000 each for work opportunities in Malaysia.
The pandemic has also greatly impacted the labour market here in Malaysia. With rising unemployment levels, the government aims to reduce our dependence on foreign labour in favour of local workers.
In June 2020 the Human Resource Ministry (MOHR) announced that the country would be freezing Malaysia’s intake of migrant workers as well as prompting locals to fill up available job opportunities and not be picky about their employment options.
This move reportedly caused a huge labour shortage in sectors essential to the nation’s economy that were predominately made up of migrant workers.
The coronavirus had also exposed inadequacies in how Malaysia treats its migrant labourers as their poor working and living conditions were highlighted to be a serious concern for the spread of infectious diseases.
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