Malaysia seriously needs to review the very liberal policy on the importation of low-skilled manual workers.
This is an economic policy issue. It's not an issue for the Immigration Department or Home Affairs to decide willy nilly.
Young Malaysians who are entering into the workforce are accused of being choosy and selective and spoilt. Is that true?
As with all other countries, anywhere in the world, many young Malaysian men hate studies and they find the need for further education appalling. Is that a bad thing? Do we abandon them?
Young Malaysians will make their own choices. No amount of legislation can change the decision of a young Malaysian to not pursue further education.
So, where do they go to make a living? They will invariably migrate from smaller towns and hamlets into larger towns and cities.
After they arrive they discover that with their low skill sets, they can only get factory jobs and logistics work as drivers and delivery staff. They can also get jobs in food and beverage outlets.
The wages they receive in those jobs are in the RM5.00 to RM6.00 per hour band.
Work in "dirty jobs" sectors like construction and waste disposal is not much better than that wage band.
Young Malaysians can handle that kind of pay for the first 2 to 5 years of working life. Every Malaysian will have some relative or friend who can provide some room and board during these early years.
What happens when the young Malaysian want to settle down and start a family?
How much does it cost to get married, start a family and start a home?
This is where the policy on Minimum Wage becomes important.
There are many critics of the Minimum Wage. All of these critics are, of course, employers. Most of them are in labour intensive sectors such as property development, manufacturing and plantations. These are "dirty jobs" sectors that choosy and selective and spoilt Malaysians are accused of avoiding.
Consider this; what if the Minimum Wage is imposed at, say, RM10.00 per hour instead of the current prevailing market rate of RM5.00, or less.
Of course, business owners will experience profit margin compression during the transition. And, there will be many reverberations and percolating implications.
But, this is where the Malaysian Government needs scenario planning and econometric simulations to consider these possibilities and come up with a slew of possible policy responses.
Regardless of the political convulsions that are taking place and issues of serious corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of the Malaysian government, issues such as economic policy planning to address issues of concern to Malaysian workers and their livelihood must constantly be addressed.
I am against the liberal policy of importing foreign labour. There is adequate human capital at all levels of skills in Malaysia that can handle Malaysia's capacity and economic output.
I believe a sensible start to an inquiry into the matter of the Malaysian workforce must start with a putative position on a Minimum Wage that allows a young Malaysian to dream of a decent start to his or her working life.
A sensible Minimum Wage will give the average Malaysian a sense of dignity in living and it is a starting point for the average Malaysian to consider whether his or her current skill set is adequate or, needs improvement through further vocational training or tertiary education. It is merely a starting point in a Malaysian's journey as a good and citizen.