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Change attitudes about migrant workers

August 4, 2014

ILO wants public perception of migrant workers in the country changed for the better through public service announcements.

MDG--Foreign-workers-in-M-007PETALING JAYA: There are over 3 million migrant workers in Malaysia who play a vital role in the local economy.

They keep households in order and look after children as domestic workers, prepare and serve food in restaurants around the country, manufacture key exports, and build the cities’ towering skyscrapers.

The International Labour Organisation says in addition to long hours and backbreaking work, many migrants are exploited or suffer from discrimination and abuse, including hazardous working conditions and unfair wages.

Anna Olsen ILO’s technical officer said the immigrants have trouble getting access to healthcare and sometimes even experience harassment from authorities – especially if they are undocumented.

“In some extreme cases, migrants end up in situations of forced labour or become victims of human trafficking.

A poor understanding of who migrant workers are and why they are in the country is a problem in Malaysia, and contributes to a situation where these issues persist,” she said.

A 2010 survey conducted by the ILO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific found that the Malaysian public had limited understanding about the need for migrant workers in certain sectors, the positive contribution they make to the economy, and their right to equal treatment, including pay.

It found instead that many Malaysians believe migrants are a drain on the economy, drive up the crime rate and don’t deserve to be paid as much as native-born Malaysians.

But the survey also found that if nationals know migrant workers – as friends, neighbours or colleagues – they are significantly more supportive of their rights.

Olsen said they saw an opportunity for the Migration Works campaign to capitalize on this finding.

” So we decided to partner with MTV EXIT (a campaign that works to end human trafficking and exploitation) and produce a public service announcement (PSA) – Migration works for us all – highlighting the positive contribution of migrant workers to Malaysian society,” she said.

The PSA profiles a domestic worker, a security guard, and a waiter, and challenges the audience to think beyond the job titles of migrant workers, and to recognize the significant contributions they make to Malaysia’s economy and society.

By focusing on what migrants and Malaysians have in common, rather than their differences, the PSA fosters greater understanding and appreciation of this contribution.

The PSA will be launched through several online networks and disseminated through our social networks and on Malaysian TV.


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