KUALA LUMPUR: Efforts must be stepped up to address the issue of low wages faced by Malaysians workers, such as attracting the right investments to the country, upskilling the local workforce and reducing the reliance on foreign workers, Bank Negara Malaysia assistant governor Marzunisham Omar (pix) said today.
Clarifying that Malaysia did not experience a decline in productivity but is seeing slower growth in productivity, he said Malaysian workers have to increase their productivity and, at the same time, the country needs to ensure that its workers are paid fairly.
“We need to address this issue from several perspectives. First, the need to get our act together to attract the right kind of investments into our economy, both foreign and domestic, so that we can create jobs for Malaysians. In the past six to seven years, we’ve not been able to create the necessary number of high-skilled jobs to absorb the graduates coming into our economy every year,” he told reporters after a panel discussion at the Bank Negara Malaysia Governor’s Address on the Malaysian economy organised by the Malaysian Economic Association here.
“Second, we need to strengthen our education and the industry has to come together to assist in upskilling and reskilling our labour. Our industry must be committed to adopting more automation and reduce the reliance on low cost labour.
“As long as we have an unlimited supply of cheap foreign labour, we will continue to be reliant on the low cost model and this is not sustainable. This will not help us move to the higher value-added economy that we want. This will not help our workers to earn higher wages,” Marzunisham said.
He said reforms in the labour market in terms of law and rules and regulations are needed, and to encourage adoption of a more productivity-linked wage system. “The government is looking at making sure incentives are more targeted. No longer giving emphasis on blanket incentives.”
Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain concurred, saying that more concrete measures should be aimed at tackling the issue of foreign workers.
At almost full employment in Malaysia, wages should go up but this appears otherwise, he said, citing reasons of easy access to foreign labour. He suggested firms be given incentives to employ more locals.
Philip Capital Management senior vice-president (investment) Datuk Dr Mohd Nazri Khan said: “It’s an embarrassment for Malaysia. We have six million foreign workers and most of these foreign workers are not high skilled, unlike in Singapore where they are high end.”
Source: The Sun Daily