IDEAS: Chinese investments may not mean high-skilled jobs for locals

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PETALING JAYA: The rush for Chinese investments in Malaysia may not necessarily mean that locals will benefit from high-paying, high-skilled jobs, a think tank warns.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) head Wan Saiful Wan Jan said the nature of Chinese investments in Malaysia involved mostly construction work.

Although these projects would create new types of jobs later on, he voiced concern over how the government would ensure that higher-paying jobs would be available for locals.

“It is not clear how we will ensure that the higher-paying jobs will be available for the locals in the future because construction jobs are not necessarily going to bring people out from the bottom 40% category,” he told The Edge financial daily.

Wan Saiful gave the example of the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP), which the government assured earlier this year would create 3,648 job opportunities.

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Chua Tee Yong said an estimated 53% of these jobs would be created specifically for Malaysians.

Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat in March, Chua also said joint projects with China would create more than 10,000 job opportunities in Malaysia, although not all would go to locals.

However, Wan Saiful said his initial study on the labour deployed at the MCKIP project showed that many jobs requiring higher skills were occupied by Chinese workers brought in by investors.

In the report, he added that the immediate jobs created there had been mostly low-skilled construction jobs.

He also questioned how locals could transition to higher-level jobs once investors leave.

MCKIP is the first industrial park in Malaysia jointly developed by Malaysia and China.

MCKIP Sdn Bhd is a 51:49 joint venture between IJM Land Bhd, Sime Darby Property Bhd and the Pahang state government, and China’s Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group and Qinzhou Investment Development Co Ltd.

China-based Alliance Steel Sdn Bhd is the largest investor in MCKIP.

Wan Saiful also pointed to Chinese investments in Africa, which he said had created more low-skilled and low-paying jobs than high-paying, high-skilled ones.

He called for a review of policy on the government’s part to ensure that jobs created for locals would not follow this trend.

Last year, Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia had entered into 14 agreements and memorandums of understanding with China for businesses with a total value of RM144 billion.

He said the amount of these deals was the biggest ever recorded in conjunction with his official visit overseas, making it a historic achievement.

But critics have voiced concerns that Malaysia’s interests are being sold to China, in exchange for financial backing.

Malaysia-China projects will create 10,000 jobs but not all for locals