About two-third of our almost 30 million population is a working population. And, out of this 20 million, about 7 million is still without jobs. Out of 13 million employed, about 3 million are foreign workers. That means close to half of jobs for the 7 million jobless. Very well, some of them are students and retirees. But, I guess half of the 7 million without jobs are those not active looking for jobs, and there must be good reasons on why they are currently being discouraged to look for jobs actively.
One of the key diseases of the Malaysian society is the over-reliance on foreign workers. If one walk around anywhere in this country, one will notice the presence of foreign workers almost everywhere - from petrol stations, restaurants, supermarket and hotels to production plants and farms. So many of them such that if you were happen to lost your way and stop at any guy nearby to ask for direction to a place - you will probably won't get any help at all. At times, one just feels that this is not Malaysia but Banglasia.
The standard reason is off course that it is much cheaper to hire these foreign workers than local workers - and this is for two reasons, one is that their wages are lower and second, their productivity - in terms of willingness to work extra hours and ability to do a lot more - is also higher. And, the opposites can be said about the locals. Well, no one would dispute that, but if one simply accepts that as a valid reason, then there will always be a substantial number of locals to continue to be out of jobs.
Some would simply argue that the influx of foreign workers is the main reason and hence, has argue for tighter policy on it. Others, on the other hand, would argue that locals are simply refusing to take those jobs currently occupied by the foreigners. However, isn't it natural for businesses who always seek to maximize their profit or, alternatively, minimize their cost would surely prefer to employ foreign workers if there is such opportunity? The availability of an abundant supply of foreign workers in itself discourage businesses to adopt new production process that rely more on higher skill workers and less on low skill offered by foreign workers.
Perhaps, the solution is to create a conducive environment for new job creations for the locals are therefore important - jobs that commensurate with right wages and skills for Malaysian. Spending money on constructing new tall buildings and highways seems to create new economic activities. Unfortunately, however, it seems to benefit foreign workers rather than opening up new job opportunities to the locals. Foreign workers also tend to send back most of their money back home and only spend for necessities and hence, while there is an indirect effect to the locals, it is likely to be very minimal.
Perhaps, the society should seriously start reducing the number of foreign workers available to the society itself. Off course, there will be a crying by certain segment of the society that this will kill their business and add to higher cost of employing local workers. But, for the sake of the society to progress to higher level, the society ought to be willing to destroy these industries that compete on low and cheap labour. Putting the businesses into a new environment of non-availability of cheap foreign workers might push them to adopt new production process that is able to offer higher wages and be attractive enough for locals, and over time will like to lead to emergence of new business activities and hence creation of new types of jobs.
For those industries that cannot and do not have desire to change to new business process, they by all means should perhaps leave this country and move to other neighbouring cheap labour countries. There will off course be a period of temporary suffering of lower income for the society as a whole. But, if we were to progress, we ought to be willing to take this path.
Fuh ! something to ponder indeed... (An unfinished thought)