Bank Negara: Locals won’t shun 3D jobs if wages are right

Malaysians are willing to work as plant and machine operators and assemblers in Singapore because of higher wages. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) says Malaysian workers will not shun “dirty, dangerous and difficult” (3D) jobs if they are offered more attractive wages.

The central bank said although cultural factors and the inherent nature of the work also played a role in deterring locals from 3D jobs, wage conditions could also be blamed.

According to an article titled “Low-Skilled Foreign Workers, Distortions to the Economy” in BNM’s Annual Report 2017 released yesterday, 40% of about 200,000 daily commuters from Malaysia to Singapore are working in mid- to low-skilled jobs, mainly motivated by higher wages.

The report said these included occupations that were often avoided in Malaysia, such as plant and machine operators and assemblers, cleaners and labourers.

“In other words, at a more attractive level of wages, Malaysian workers would not shun 3D jobs.

“While this is a limited example, it does suggest that current wages in Malaysia may be too low to attract local workers.”

The article said employers might also be reluctant to increase wages due to the presence of cheaper alternatives.

“So long as blue-collar wages continue to face downward pressures, employers will not be hard pressed to adopt productivity-enhancing measures,” it said.

As a result, Malaysians risk being trapped in a low-wage, low-skill conundrum, which can be observed through the share of job creation by skills from 2011 to 2017.

“When taken with other factors, Malaysia’s share of low-skilled job creation increased to 16% between 2011 and 2017 from 8% between 2002 and 2010.

“In fact, 73% of jobs created from 2015 to 2016 went to foreigners. Almost all of them had at most a secondary education.”