are in the MOST Phase I website (1994-2003).
The MOST Phase II website is available at: www.unesco.org/shs/most.
For a large part of human history people were free to move between regions for economic, political or socio-cultural reasons but such freedom is curtailed in modern times with the demarcation of political boundaries and the creation of nation states which institute immigration laws to regulate cross-border migration. However, these laws are often inadequate or not enforceable and international migration continues. In the last three decades or so, labour migration the world over has accelerated. In the Asia-Pacific region, the acceleration is accompanied by a shift in the direction of major labour flows. By the 1970s, the United States and Europe were no longer the main focus of migration from Asia; instead a large wave of migrants moved to the Middle East and then to newly industrialised countries in East Asia.
Most, if not all, countries are party to international labour migration either as labour exporters, importers or both as in the case of Malaysia. While over a million aliens work in the country, an estimate of over 200,000 Malaysians are found working in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. This paper provides an overview of labour mobility in Malaysia, its consequences and the role of the government. The focus is on labour in-flow, a major concern in Malaysia today. The state of research to date will also be examined briefly to identify key research issues that can be undertaken in the near future.
B. Malaysia: A Brief Introduction
Malaysia, as a political entity, is geographically divided into east and west Malaysia, separated approximately 800 miles by the South China Sea. East Malaysia comprises the states of Sabah and Sarawak; while West or Peninsula Malaysia, consists of twelve semi-autonomous states. These states form a federation, a parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarchy.
Malaysia’s multi-ethnic population is categorised by the government into two types, viz. the Bumiputra and Non-Bumiputra. The former term Bumiputra, which means literally ‘the sons of the soil’ refers, in Peninsula Malaysia to the Malays and the aborigines; and in Sabah and Sarawak, it refers to over twenty indigenous ethnic groups, such as the Iban, Bidayuh, Kadazan, Murut, Dusun, etc. The term non-Bumiputra refers to those of immigrant descent, chief of which are the Chinese and Indians. According to the last census carried out in 1991, the population was over 18.55 million of which 6 per cent were non-citizens. Of the 17.5 million Malaysians, 61.7 per cent were Bumiputra, 27.3 per cent ethnic Chinese, 7.7 per cent ethnic Indians and the rest comprising ‘others’. The majority of the population, i.e. over 80 per cent, were in Peninsular Malaysia. In 1995, the population was estimated at 20 million with a labour force of about eight million.
Malaysia’s multi-ethnic population is evidence of earlier in-migration which took place largely in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Under the British colonial rule, capitalist economic enterprises were introduced and with them the necessary infrastructure. The opening of large scale plantations (coffee, coconut and rubber), the expansion of tin mines and the construction of railways, roads and buildings required a large number of workers. As the local population was too small and generally not responsive to wage labour, the colonial authorities recruited and encouraged the entry of foreign labour, especially from China and India and, to a lesser degree, from neighbouring Indonesia.
Under the British colonial administration a divide and rule policy kept the immigrant workers apart from each other and from the indigenous population. In Peninsular Malaysia, for example, the local Malays (and the Indonesians who, because of socio-cultural similarities, later assimilated with the Malays) were confined to the rural areas engaged mainly in peasant farming. The official policy of the British was to encourage the Malays to remain peasants, albeit better peasants than their forefathers. The Indians were mainly employed as wage labour in the plantations and in the construction sectors, especially building roads and railways; while the Chinese worked in the tin mines and involved themselves in trade and commerce in the urban areas. Such segregation may exclude a small number of elites in each ethnic group; among the lower classes which form the main bulk of the population, however, it was the norm. Such a pattern of economic and geographical segregation is still found in Malaysia today, in spite of the government’s attempt to eradicate it. Thus, the Malays and other indigenous groups are found largely in the rural areas, the Chinese in towns and cities and the Indians in estates and plantations.
During the colonial period, Malaysia (then Malaya and British North Borneo) was predominantly an agricultural country depending for export earnings on two primary commodities, rubber and tin. After independence in 1957, attempts were made by the government to reduce the country’s dependence on tin and rubber and to steer the country towards industrialisation. To achieve these objectives the government formulated and implemented a series of five year development plans. Since Malaysia’s inception in 1965, six development plans have been implemented: First Malaysia Plan (1965–70); Second Malaysia Plan (1971–75); Third Malaysia Plan (1976–80); Fourth Malaysia Plan (1981–85); Fifth Malaysia Plan (1986–90) and the Sixth Malaysia Plan (1991–95). The seventh one is expected to be launched very soon.
The Second Malaysia Plan which encompassed the New Economic Policy (NEP) laid the foundation for industrialisation in the country. Two decades after its implementation, manufacturing, palm oil and petroleum replaced rubber and tin as the mainstay of the economy. Manufacturing, for example, account for 32.4 per cent of GDP in 1995 and 25.5 per cent of employment. GDP growth is now 9.5 per cent, per capita GDP US$8763.00 and the unemployment rate of 2.9 per cent. The growing economy has its attendant problems. While employment grew at the rate of 3.2 per cent per annum between 1990 and 1995, labour supply increased at only 2.9 per cent. The resultant labour shortage was made worse by the selective attitude of local labour due to expansion of education, improvement in living conditions and access to upward mobility.
The implementation of the NEP which was designed to restructure society and eradicate poverty in 1971 led to a massive population drift to the urban areas. This led to acute labour shortage in the rural and plantation sectors which was overcome by the importation of workers from Indonesia and Thailand, Malaysia’s traditional labour suppliers. Initially, such recruitment was made surreptitiously as there were no legal provisions for the importation and employment of unskilled or semi-skilled aliens. The labour shortage later expanded to the construction sector and domestic services. Again, aliens were recruited, albeit illegally, to fill the gap. As illegal entry persisted not only has the traffic in immigrant labour increased in volume, the Indonesians and the Thais are also joined by other nationalities from countries in Asia, the Middle East and the African continent.
C. State Responses to Alien Labour
In spite of the large number of illegals and the attendant problems associated with their presence, the Malaysian government is yet to come up with a comprehensive policy on the issue of immigrant workers. From time to time, measures are taken to address specific problems arising out of alien (legal and illegal) employment, but these measures are at times in contradiction with each other. Thus mixed and confused messages and signals are sent out the aliens, recruiting agents, employers, the general public as well as government officials who are entrusted with regulating the entry and employment of foreign workers. An outline of these measures is given in Table 1.
Throughout the 1970s no action was taken to address the issue of labour shortage and the infiltration of illegal aliens. It was only when the number of illegals became large and noticeable and their presence began to cause problems for the local population, especially in the urban areas, that steps were taken to address the problem. The first of such measures was the formation of the Jawatankuasa Pengambilan Pekerja Asing (lit. Committee for the Recruitment of Foreign Workers) in July 1982 and the signing of the Medan Agreement with Indonesia in May 1984. The latter, which was designed to regulate the inflow of Indonesian workers for the plantation sector, was later extended to domestic maids. Subsequently, in 1985, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with the Philippines to import domestic maids. In 1986, permission was given to employers to recruit labour from Bangladesh for the plantation sector, and from Thailand for the plantation and construction sectors. Legal provisions were made to allow the private sector to form agencies for the sole purpose of recruiting alien labour direct from their country of origin.
In spite of these measures, aliens continued to enter the country clandestinely. In January 1989, amidst protests from some members of the public, trade union leaders and some politicians against the increasing number of illegal workers, the government sent directives to employers in the plantation sector to register and regularise their illegal workers. This exercise, called the Program Pemutihan Pendatang Tanpa Izin (lit. Program for the Regularisation of Illegal Immigrants) received minimal co-operation from plantation management and had to be postponed twice until mid 1991. Its success was limited.
Many factors contributed to the failure of the government’s efforts to curb the illegal inflow of foreign (Kassim 1991, 1993; Zanifan Md. Zain 1991). Legal importation of alien labour was and still is time consuming and costly and, therefore, unpopular with prospective employers who prefer illegals as they are also easy to control and mobilise—and such labour could easily be found. There was, by the late 1980s, a large reserve of illegal aliens in the country whom employers could recruit readily. In Kuala Lumpur alone, unpublished data at the City Hall Enforcement Directorate reveal that in 1989 there were over 12,000 Indonesians living in squatter settlements in the capital. The actual number was of course much higher as there were many Indonesians and other aliens living elsewhere such as in kongsi (makeshift living quarters for workers) at construction sites and in private housing areas such as the Malay Reservation areas. Fresh recruits, especially from the neighbouring Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, could also be brought in illegally, with relative ease.
The Malaysian coastline and border is far too long to be patrolled effectively by the marine police and immigration personnel which are limited in number. The difficulty is further compounded by public apathy and abetment induced by socio-cultural or economic reasons. Many Malaysians, as alluded to earlier, are of foreign descent belonging to similar ethnic groups as the illegals, some of whom may even be their distant relatives. The illegal entry also generated business opportunities and benefited many—especially informal recruiters, landlords, employers and syndicates supplying fake documents. Public collusion was induced by government inaction; few overt sanctions were taken against those who abetted the illegals even though they clearly infringed the immigration and employment laws. This emboldened many more to break these laws with impunity.
In the 1980s there was also a basic flaw in the way the issues of labour shortages and illegal aliens were dealt with by the government. Measures taken from time to time, such as the Medan Agreement, the MOU with the Philippines, etc, were made on an ad hoc basis and addressed only labour shortages in the plantation and domestic services. Labour shortages in other sectors, especially in construction, where thousands of illegal aliens were employed by the mid-1980s, were ignored. Without legal avenues for their recruitment, foreign workers in these sectors continued to be recruited illegally. The number of undocumented alien workers in the country continued to grow alongside legally recruited ones and with it the negative consequences of their presence and employment (see below). This caused strong antagonism against the aliens (including legally recruited ones) among some sections of the public. The need for measures to overcome the problems developed greater urgency. Legalisation of the aliens appeared to be the only answer and this was done through a period of amnesty when the undocumented workers were expected to register and legalise their position. This was confined to the Peninsula only.
The amnesty was first announced in November 1991. Initially it was directed only at domestic maids who were given a month to legalise themselves. The response was encouraging and this induced the government to extend the legislation exercise to 30th June 1992 to cover those in the construction and plantation sectors. In April 1992, the Immigration Department also registered illegal aliens employed in the manufacturing and services sectors as a result of mounting pressure from manufacturers and others and in anticipation of an official directive from the government to extend amnesty to them.
During the amnesty period, i.e. between November 1991 and 30 June 1992, illegal aliens were to register themselves at thirty registration centres specially set up by the Immigration Department all over the Peninsula. The onus for registration was on the employers who, after registration, would take their respective workers to their respective embassies to get their temporary travel papers and have a medical check-up to ensure that they were not suffering from any communicable diseases. Only after passing the medical check-up could the illegal aliens be brought back to the Immigration Department to get their temporary work. Those who were found to be suffering from communicable diseases were to be deported.
The registration exercise was accompanied by police measures to prevent further illegal entry, code-named the Ops Nyah I (lit. Get Rid Operation I). Under these on-going operations, the Police Field Force was deployed to patrol over 100 posts, especially along the coasts of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johore, where illegal entry by aliens is most active. The patrol squads were to arrest illegals trying to come into Malaysia and turn them over to the Immigration Department who, in turn, would deport them.
At the end of the registration exercise on 30th June 1992, 442,276 aliens had registered. The Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs estimated then that over 200,000 illegals were still at large and to force them out the police were directed to establish and implement Ops Nyah II (lit. Get Rid Operation II). Under the Ops Nyah II, raids and unannounced checks were carried out in areas suspected of harbouring illegals such as the squatter settlements and construction sites. Like the Ops Nyah I, the Ops Nyah II is an on-going exercise.
At the end of 1992, only about 20 per cent of those who registered eventually applied for work permits (The Star, 26 October 1992). The rest of the registered aliens, i.e. around 375,000, are technically still illegal as they have not obtained their work permits—their Sijil Lawatan Kerja Sementara. It is clear that illegal aliens have not responded fully to the amnesty granted to them and the legalisation exercise has achieved only limited success.
In spite of the Ops Nyah I and Ops Nyah II, illegal inflow continues; the crackdown on illegal aliens has not stopped illegal entry by foreigners. Between December 1991 and December 1995, there were on average about 53 illegal landings on the Malaysian coasts bringing in on average 1,116 illegal aliens per month (see Table 2). For about the same period, on average 773 illegals were arrested each week under the Ops Nyah II (see Table 3).
The limited success achieved by Ops Nyah I and Ops Nyah II, forced the government to look at other ways to curb the illegal entry. Since 1995, these exercises have been complemented by actions to crack down on those who abet illegal entry such as informal recruiters (taikong), harbourers and employers of illegal aliens and suppliers of fake documents. A number of arrests, widely reported in the national dailies, have been made and those caught included corrupt officials in the police and the immigration departments. Amendments to the immigration law relating to illegal entry are being develop, a bill will be tabled in the next parliamentary session to increase the fines for harbourers and employers of illegals from RM10,000.00 to RM50,000.00 for first offenders and RM10,000.00 for subsequent offences.
The persistence of illegal entry and employment is viewed, in part, as a consequence of the high cost of legal recruitment. Consequently, at the end of 1995, the government did away with recruiting agencies except those for foreign maids and fees charged by the maid recruiting agencies are now regulated.
In the eastern states of Sabah, similar measures have been taken but their enforcement is not as rigorous as in the Peninsula. In Sarawak, no measures have been taken so far although the issues of illegal aliens and their employment have equally serious implications on the economy and politics of the state.
D. Alien Workers: Size, Country of Origin and Job Distribution
As a large number of alien labour arrived illegally it is difficult to determine their exact number. It was only after the initial phase of the registration exercise on 30 June 1992 that an indication of their size first became available. Over 425,000 illegal aliens registered and when the registration exercise was extended to 1994, another 65,000 registered bringing the total to over 480,000. The majority of them were Indonesians followed by Bangladeshis, Thais and Myanmarese.
Until December 1995, over 51,000 illegal aliens were apprehended under Ops Nyah I and around 136,800 under Ops Nyah II. The illegals came from about 53 countries but the largest number (about 89 per cent) came from Indonesia, followed by Bangladesh (about 13 per cent) (see Table 4). A substantial number have been deported while the rest are remanded at the eight detention depots. They will be deported once they are verified by their respective embassies/consulates. In spite of the on-going operations under Ops Nyah I and Ops Nyah II, an official of the Internal Security and Public Order Department at the Malaysian police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur told the writer that to date about 250,000 illegals are still at large in Peninsular Malaysia.
As a result of the steps taken by the authorities, more foreign workers are entering Malaysia legally. Until March 1995, about 375,128 work permits had been issued to foreign workers who applied for entry from their home countries. In addition, 151,427 work permits have been issued to aliens who registered under the amnesty program in 1992. Another 11,176, who registered in the state of Pahang, have not been included in the data because information on their nationalities was not available. Thus, in the Peninsula alone the total number of legal foreign workers comes to around 598,793, comprising nationals from at least ten countries. The largest number are Indonesians (65 per cent), followed by Bangladeshis (21 per cent); about 7 per cent are from the Philippines and 5 per cent Thais. They are engaged in domestic services, plantations, construction, manufacturing, services and ‘others’ which usually refers to work in the tourist industries such as hotel staff or workers at golf courses (see Table 5).
Assuming that the statement made by the police officer (see above) that there are about 250,000 illegal aliens in Peninsular Malaysia is true, then the total number of aliens is about 850,000. This figure is believed by many to be a gross under-estimate. For example, a government backbencher in the southern state of Johore claimed in a meeting of the Johore State Assembly in December 1995, that there were now about one million Indonesians in that state alone (The Star, 16 December 1995).
In the eastern state of Sabah official records indicate there are about 37,655 legal alien workers in the state. They comprise mainly Filipinos and Indonesians. In Sarawak official records show that their number is lower, i.e. around 24,407. In addition, these two states also harbour a large number of illegals whose estimates vary between 500,000 and 700,000. There is of course no way of verifying these estimates.
It is therefore very difficult to arrive at a reliable figure on the number of illegals in the country. For the moment many quarters (including personnel from the Ministry of Human Resources) put the total number of the alien workforce in the country at 1.2 million. Thus aliens account for about 14 per cent of the total labour force in the country and 7 per cent of the population of about 20 million in 1995.
The actual total number of aliens in the country must of course be larger. In addition to the workers, there are also members of their families, i.e. wives, children, aged parents and other relatives whom they have smuggled in. Many of these relatives are not in the workforce and therefore not accounted for in the registration exercise which was aimed only at those in employment and not at aliens in general.
E. Social and Political Effects of Labour In-Migration
Social and political effects of migration can be problematical only when aliens pose or are perceived by the host population to pose a threat to them. To understand how such problems can arise it is necessary, firstly, to identify areas of competition and conflicts and, secondly, to examine the prevailing stereotypes and images of the aliens which can influence the perception of the host population towards them.
(1) Areas of Competition and Conflict
i) The Economy
Even some of those who are legally recruited are known to be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse as evidenced by a number of works carried out, among others, by Caridad Tharan (1989, pp. 272–86), Lau (1993/94), Samuel (1987/88) and Azizah Kassim (1995). Some are overcharged by their recruiting agents to the extent that they are forced to work without pay for months to pay their debts. Others are given long working hours, subjected to verbal and physical abuse, made to work on jobs outside their contracts, and some have their pay withheld by their employers. There is a lot of dissatisfaction among contract (legal) alien workers and it is not uncommon for them to run away from their employers before termination of their contract. Many employers, too, are similarly dissatisfied and this drives a few to abuse their workers verbally and/or physically.
In spite of the numerous problems faced by the alien workers they are resented by many, especially those who must compete with them for jobs. Their presence is seen by many, in particular trade union leaders, as an obstacle to their effort to fight for better terms and conditions of service for the local workers.
The negative impact of alien labour employment is also felt in the informal sector especially in the urban areas. Some foreigners take up petty trading, full-time or part-time, to supplement incomes from other sources and thus come into direct competition with local traders for trading space and customers. In the Klang Valley their presence is conspicuous especially at night markets, held nightly at different places in the capital and Petaling Jaya. As the local authorities do not issue trading licences to aliens it must be assumed that they either trade illegally or use licences issued to locals. This is a cause of anger for legitimate local traders.
At the macro level alien workers drain the country’s resources through remittances to their families back home. It is estimated that about 4.5 billion ringgit was remitted to Indonesia alone in 1995. Monetary loss to Malaysia can also take other forms as illegal entry is also associated with the smuggling of foods into Malaysia from neighbouring countries. Such activities deny the government revenue in terms of import duties.
The Malaysian authorities also have to bear the costs of arresting, detaining and deporting the illegal aliens arrested under the Ops Nyah I and Ops Nyah II. The apprehended aliens are sent to the immigration depot/detention camps before their various embassies verify them. Maintenance cost of the camps is high—over RM10 million per year. In addition, the government has to pay for the cost of their passage home, which in the case of the Indonesians comes to about RM50.00 per person by boat. But the cost of sending the Bangladesh’s is higher, they are sent by air which can cost the government RM1,200.00 per person. Thus, it would cost the government over RM3.5 million to send home all the Bangladeshis, (2,928) currently held at the detention centres. In view of the persistence of illegal entry as alluded to earlier, the arrests will continue and so will the cost of deporting them. This is a cause of concern to many Malaysians who would rather see such resources be put to better use for the benefit and welfare of the local poor.
ii) Housing, Amenities and Social Services
The most popular choice of residence among them are the squatter areas. For example, in 1988, twenty three areas with a sizeable Indonesian population were identified in the Kelang Valley (see Kassim 1988: 236–7 and Amin 1989). By the end of 1991, the number of settlements with alien populations increased considerably. In Kuala Lumpur alone City Hall statistics for 1989 show that immigrants (Indonesians) are found in 56 squatter settlements where there are 2,172 squatter houses accommodating 4.518 families with a total population of 12,401. Hence immigrants account for about 6.8 per cent of the capital’s squatter population which was estimated at 181.496. No statistics on the number of immigrant squatters of other nationalities or on squatters in other towns are available.
The infiltration of alien workers into some settlements in urban areas has increased the market price and rental value of accommodation sought by the urban poor, thus making it even harder for the local people to seek accommodation in these places. It also exacts a heavy toll on limited basic amenities and a settlement area often turns into a slum once immigrants move in, while locals who are used to a ‘higher’ standard of living are forced to move out.
As many of the immigrants live in squatter areas which are prone to flood and fire outbreak, urban authorities are also at a loss to how to deal with the immigrants in the case of catastrophes. The issue of who is rightly responsible for them in such events, representatives of their respective governments or the Malaysian government, has never been resolved. The Malaysian government has on a few occasions re-housed them. Occasionally, there are also reports of immigrants successfully finding their way into low cost flats meant only for the local people (Malay Mail, 17 October 1992). Such an occurrent understandably provokes the wrath of the local population in view of the current shortage of low-cost housing for the urban poor. The recent announcement by the Selangor state government to re-house all squatters, including illegal immigrants, has already been objected to by the Youth wing of the Malaysian political party, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), the dominant partner in the ruling coalition, Barisan National (BN).
Most of the time the presence of the immigrants not only frustrates, but it also makes it more difficult if not impossible for the urban authorities, such as City Hall of Kuala Lumpur and the Petaling Jaya urban authority (MPPJ) to resettle the squatters and reclaim land for physical development. Aliens often move in almost as soon as an area has been cleared of squatters.
Apart from the strain on urban housing, alien labour also poses a heavy toll on medical and educational facilities in the urban areas. Most of them are poor and they are not provided medical benefit by their employers or not entitled to it by virtue of their illegal status. Even if they are entitled their family members are not. Thus they and their families have to depend on public medical facilities (New Straits Times, 1 December 1995). Many of them have children of school age and again they have to put them into state schools. Hence, the strain on these facilities in areas where the aliens are concentrated such as in the Kelang Valley is great.
(2) Negative Images
i) Aliens as Health Risks
Aliens in urban areas are also regarded as health hazards because many of them live in squalid conditions in slum areas where there are no basic amenities such as piped water, electricity and proper waste disposal facilities. The government is so concerned with this health problem that it has imposed a condition on all foreign workers applying for work permits to go for a medical check-up and work permits will only be issued to those who are certified to be medically fit. The government has made it a policy to deport all foreign workers who are found to be carriers of communicable and contagious diseases and as a preventative measure it has also insisted employers of aliens provide them with decent accommodation.
ii) Aliens as Causes of Increasing Social Problems
Aliens have also touched on the religious sensitivities of the local Muslims. A few of them have been known to spread what the government calls ‘deviant Islamic teachings’ such as those preached by the Naqshabandiah sect. There are also reports of aliens, i.e. Indonesian women, committing bigamy. At least 120 migrant women workers from Indonesia have admitted having two husbands, one in Malaysia and another in Indonesia. It seems that many resort to bigamy because they feel unsafe; a husband in Malaysia can protect them. These marriages were conducted by marriage syndicates which are run by Indonesians (Metro, 17 December 1995). Such activities give rise to great concern among the Muslims in Malaysia.
i) Threat to security
The security of the country is also compromised by the illegal influx, which provides opportunities for undesirable elements of other countries, such as criminals (including drug traffickers and smugglers) and subversive political activists, to enter the country disguised as economic migrants. These undesirable elements can be used by parties opposed to the government to create chaos and disorder or even sabotage. There is evidence that these undesirable elements are already there. Criminal activities are rife among the immigrants, as shown by unpublished police records at the police headquarters in Bukit Aman. Between 1985 and 1991, for example, aliens accounted for 1.5–3 per cent of all crimes committed in the country. This number may look small but it is viewed with concern as the crimes committed by them are mainly violent crimes such as murder, attempted murder, armed gang robbery and rape. In the years mentioned, aliens accounted for between 14.7 per cent and 18.2 per cent of all murders committed in the country. The figure for gang robbery was between 32.7 per cent and 48.2 per cent. This pattern of criminal activities was maintained until last year.
ii) Upsetting the Ethnic Balance and Political Power
The presence of other ethnic immigrant groups, such as the Filipinos (except for those in Sabah), the Bangladeshis, Indians and Myanmarese, is not politicised. This is primarily because their numbers are relatively small and because of the general belief that they are transient workers who will eventually return to their own countries.
iii) Offspring of Illegal Aliens: Stateless Children?
In Malaysia, official documents (namely birth certificates and national identity cards) are prerequisites for all dealings with the state as well as the private sector. Thus, without proper documents these children will have difficulties gaining access to education, housing, health facilities and to jobs. They cannot even travel freely as it is an offence to travel without one’s identity card in Malaysia. This has not become a major political issue as the children involved are still young. However, it will be so, once these children reach maturity and begin to make their presence felt in the economic arena.
F. Existing Capabilities for Migration Research
Research on alien labour in Malaysia is often difficult and dangerous as it involves the illegals and the various syndicates that protect them. Data on the subject are also acutely lacking as the relevant authorities such as the Immigration Department, the Police and the Task Force on Foreign Labour are usually quite reluctant to release them. As a result, scholars are keen to study this phenomenon. To date there are only a handful of researchers focusing on the subject with research grants from the local universities, the government and foreign funding agencies. These grants are small allowing for small scale studies only.
For future research, funds may be sourced from the following agencies:
G. The State of Research on Migration
Studies on alien labour in Malaysia began only in the early 1980s after the problems associated with alien labour began to attract the attention of the public. A major portion of available works are based on studies carried out by the staff of local universities (see, among others, Ariffin 1995; Forall 1989 & 1992; and Kassim 1987–96). In addition, there are a number of works done by university students in the form of graduation exercises or theses for their higher degrees. These studies, the major part of which are not published, are micro in nature and adopt different approaches—legal, economic, political and anthropological. They cover a wide range of topics which include utilisation of alien labour, political implications of their presence and employment, Malaysian responses to them and problems in their legislation, their lives and working conditions and their adaptations. Most of these works concern the Indonesians, ie. the maids and plantation workers and to a lesser extent the Filipino maids. Studies on alien workers in the service sectors such as petrol pump attendants, assistants at laundry shops and restaurants, hotel workers and caddies at the golf courses, have not been attempted. Studies on aliens of other nationalities, too, are scanty. Interest in the study of Bangladeshi workers has just started and to date there is only one work on Bangladeshi factory workers. Most of the studies are on aliens in Peninsula Malaysia, in particular the Kelang Valley (Kuala Lumpur and Slangier), where about 45 per cent of the alien workers are concentrated. Only three studies on migrants in Sabah, ie. the Filipinos are now available in the form of student graduation exercises. There are no studies on aliens in Sarawak.
H. Focus of Future Research
At the national level there is a need for a comprehensive study and documentation of all aliens in the country. These studies should cover both the legal and illegal workers of all the nationalities in the various job sectors and address the following issues, among others:
At the international level, the following is suggested:
Source: Computed from unpublished data made available to the writer by the Malaysian Police Headquarters, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur
Source: Computed from unpublished data made available to the writer by the Malaysian Police Headquarters, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur.
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Magazines & Newspapers
Asiaweek, February 2, 1996, ‘Vital Signs’.
Metre (Ahad), 17 December 1995, ‘120 Indon bersuami dua’.
NST, 1 December 1995, ‘Medical fees owed by foreign workers’.
The Malay Mail, 22 October 1992, ‘Health Hazards: MPPJ worried over foreign workers spreading diseases’.
The Star, 6 August 1992, ‘1,000 foreign workers are HIV carriers’.
The Star, 16 December 1995, ‘One million Indons in Johor, says rep’.
The Star, 17 February 1996, ‘80% of beggars are foreigners’.
The Star, 18 September 1992, ‘Illegals compete for health care’.
The Star, 26 October 1995, ‘Stiffer fines for hiring illegals’.
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