AT the start of this month the operation to flush out illegal workers in all industries and businesses will soon find quite a number of employers getting caught and charged besides the huge number of illegal workers being placed in detention centres.
The law is quite merciless when dealing with employers as they may be fined heavily/jailed/even whipped and their business accounts frozen.
To many logical thinking citizens there are a few important questions they want to ask:
a) Why are these employers carrying out lawful businesses be punished worse than criminals who steal or rob or those laundering money as shown by the laws for those employing illegal workers?
b) Why are they not employing legal workers when they have invested thousands or even millions of ringgit in a business they hope to grow and expand? Surely they cannot rely on these illegals to help the business grow as proper workers are needed as they are an important factor of production (in economic terminology.)
c) Does not the heavy fine/imprisonment and punishment show it is not justified taking such risks of getting illegal workers?
So why are they still doing it? The authorities must therefore go into the root cause.
They also announced that flushing out illegals are a must as it is a security issue. But why are there so many of them and why is it that the authorities do not know how many are in the country and why so many amnesties have failed to achieve the desired result of reducing the numbers. Perhaps these few points may provide some answers.
The reason for so many foreign workers (legal and illegal) is because most industries and businesses do not get the right people for the job and is not a pay issue. It is a question of grit/commitment and a need to work, and these days many people don’t really feel the need to work unless it is a job of their choice.
The presence of illegals starts when the procedures for recruitment of legal workers are flaunted with red tape/corruption and the failure to understand the needs of the industry or business, giving rise to the desperate decision by employers to employ foreign workers to ensure running of the business can continue else the operation comes to a halt and lots of money invested is lost.
The amnesty process that is carried out seems to burden and concern employers, whether the illegal workers they notify with the authorities will be legalised or not. If not the workers will be sent home at the employers cost despite them being legalised in the short-term as the permit has no financial benefit to the employers.
Employers, especially small time businessmen, are at a loss in decision-making process dished out for employers to recruit workers.
Given this reality, an attempt to put an end to the existence of illegal workers will create a big gap in the recruitment time frame; from ongoing business operations to the time of getting sufficient new legal workers to work. How long will it take for a new worker to be recruited and be put back to work after the employer loses an illegal worker?
Businesses will be destroyed and financial ruin will befall many.
To carry out massive changes in any thing we have to look at the method and note the consequences arising therefrom.
Likewise without understanding why there is such a massive shortage of workers in all sectors and why there are so many illegal workers in the country an operation to flush them all out will cause a collapse of many industries and businesses. It is best to start off from ground zero.
For an amnesty to be given it should not be given to the employer having illegal workers but to the illegal workers to allow the employer to employ the workers they want and the number they require. Then each worker is given a three-year work permit when the particulars are submitted to the authorities for registration.
In doing this the authorities have a record of all the workers in all the industries and businesses. And it is the responsibility of the employer to provide all details of the worker to the immigration/labour office and to ensure that documentation is proper with valid passport and medical reports of health clearance. The permit given by the authorities is only conditional unless the worker is found to have a criminal record or health problem or changes job without permission.
Everything should be done and verified within six months upon issuance of the visa/work permit. This voluntary submission will provide a record to the authorities of the actual work force and requirements in all sectors allowing them determine the manpower need.
This will be a great step forward in doing away with middleman and helping to reduce red tape and avoid corruption. With a true picture of the labour situation, the government can then plan to increase the skilled work force by building more technical/vocational and agricultural colleges to encourage the young ones to move away from white collar jobs, which many find unsuitable.
Only when this new attitude is cultivated and the love of blue collar jobs is nurtured will we then have to rely on foreign workers. And with transparent procedures being implemented the need for illegal workers will be a thing of the past as employers will gladly submit documentation to the authorities for them to approve based on the needs shown and not the amount of money passed under the table.
C K Lee