PETALING JAYA: More high-paying jobs should be created for Malaysians, says Liew Chin Tong, chairman of the Research for Social Advancement Centre (Refsa). He said today that the global Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the faults in Malaysia’s current socio-economic system.
Speaking at the closing of a week-long Refsa conference on the future of work, Liew said decades of outsourcing had left the country’s workers with low-paying jobs and suppressed wages which had both come to the fore as the pandemic caused widespread job losses and pay cuts.
He noted how countries such as the US had long outsourced their manufacturing processes to China and other Asian nations, and said such foreign investment in Malaysia had not been accompanied with sufficiently high wages for Malaysian workers.
He said the government had “done nothing but facilitate investment, but investment doesn’t bring (high-paying) jobs”, which led to a huge number of Malaysians working in Singapore and other countries.
“There needs to be sufficient good-paying jobs to create incomes. More importantly, create employment, create income, create demand. With demand, there will be healthy economies with work for everyone,” said Liew, who is a DAP strategist and Johor DAP chairman.
He said the many Malaysians who worked in Singapore’s services sector now had no choice but to return home as the industry was struggling to recover from the pandemic.
Social distancing policies and movement restrictions have seen the services sector take a hit during the pandemic, with the industry recording a 16.2% drop so far this year in Malaysia.
Stressing that the issue of returning citizens was one faced by the Philippines, Bangladesh and other countries with sizeable migrant labour forces, Liew said the state needed to think about how to play a more active role in addressing the issue.
“These Malaysians will have to come back to Malaysia, and we don’t have enough jobs that pay even half their wage in Singapore,” he said.
“These are huge challenges societies have to face due to the Covid-19 crisis, and the state needs to think about how to play a more active role. We cannot afford to continue to see millions of people with low pay, unemployment … and not being able to live a decent life if they work hard.”
Citing recent estimates by the Asian Development Bank that the pandemic could result in 68 million job losses in Asia, he also noted that the crisis was set to increase poverty, long-term debt and inequality across the region.
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