JOHOR BARU: Malaysia is no longer perceived to be the land of milk and honey, and foreigners are no longer keen to take up difficult, dirty and dangerous (3D) jobs in the country.
The depreciating ringgit in recent years is making them think twice about whether it is worth it to make the journey here to search for the good life.
Small and Medium Enterprises Association Malaysia past president Teh Kee Sin said foreigners now preferred to work in Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
“They are better paid in these countries,” he said, adding that many Indonesian construction workers currently working in Malaysia are only waiting for their contracts to expire before moving elsewhere.
Teh said demand for skilled construction workers was on the rise in Indonesia as there were many infrastructure and property projects in the neighbouring country.
“Indonesians previously working in the construction sector in Malaysia can command good pay and most of them will also start as supervisors,” he said.
Teh said Malaysia should start reducing its dependency on foreign workers and the authorities should get rid of the illegal workers first as their presence has caused uneasiness among the locals.
He said based on newspapers reports, it was estimated there were two to three million illegal workers in the country.
“The Government should continue giving more incentives to SMEs so they can invest in automating their operations and reduce the dependency on foreign workers,” he said.
Malaysian Indian Commerce Association president P. Sivakumar said foreigners were now not only carrying out 3D jobs, but also going into business.
He said the recent crackdown on foreigners conducting business activities in Pengerang, Kota Tinggi, by the local authority was just the tip of the iceberg.
“If you walk around downtown Johor Baru, there are so many shops with sign boards in foreign languages and you might think you were either in Kathmandu or New Delhi,” he said.
Sivakumar said these foreign operators hired workers from their home countries with most of their customers also among their countrymen.
“The revenue generated from their businesses is being sent back to their home countries and Malaysia is not gaining anything from them,” he said.
It was reported in March last year that foreign workers had sent back RM119bil to their home countries since 2011, with Indonesian workers the biggest contributors at RM21.2bil over the last five years.
This was followed by Bangladeshis with RM17bil, while Nepalis sent home RM13.2bil, Indians RM6bil and Filipinos remitted RM3bil.
“The figure would be higher if we were to take into account undocumented foreign workers,” Sivakumar said.
He disagreed with the view that Malaysians were not willing to do work that was deemed difficult and dirty, saying there were thousands of Malaysians commuting daily to do such jobs in Singapore.