By Nur Aimidiyana Zuher
KUALA LUMPUR: The government’s decision to hire Bangladeshi workers under the Government to Government Plus (G-to-G Plus) concept between Malaysia and Bangladesh has drawn mixed reactions although the move is aimed at fulfilling industry needs.
People have been expressing their views through the mainstream media and social media and they are particularly concerned about the social implications of having more than a million Bangladeshis swarming into the nation.
Some non-governmental organisations and trade unions have questioned the rational for the entry of Bangladeshi workers under the G-to-G Plus concept.
On Feb 9, Bangladesh Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam was reported to have said that the Bangladesh government had approved a draft memorandum of understanding for G-To-G Plus that would allow 1.5 million Bangladeshis to work in Malaysia.
Following the wide media coverage on this issue, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement on Feb 11 to clarify that the 1.5 million figure referred to the number of Bangladeshis registered with the Bangladesh government for the purpose of employment.
The ministry stressed that there was no specific figure for Bangladeshi workers entering the country because it would depend on the actual needs of employers in five sectors, namely construction, manufacturing, plantation, agriculture and services. It was earlier announced that the workers would come to Malaysia in stages over three to five years.
QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
On concerns that the presence of so many foreign workers in the country could lead to social problems, head of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Department of Resource Management and Consumer Studies Asso Prof Dr Mohamad Fazli Sabri said the government should study the long-term implications of having foreign workers in the country and the risks they posed to the locals.
He said each and every foreign worker should be subject to a mandatory screening process before they were deemed fit to work in Malaysia.
“There’s no doubt that our government screens all foreign workers but a more detailed and thorough screening process should be put in place because we don’t want people with problems to come as they may have an impact on our nation’s security and even the people’s health.
“We should not look for quantity but quality. The important thing is they should be credible and have the capacity to work productively and efficiently. There’s proof that foreign workers are causing a lot of social problems (in our country),” he told Bernama.
Mohamad Fazli also said that certain factors, like the current economic challenges and outflow of Malaysian currency, have to be taken into consideration before allowing more foreign workers to enter the country.
Meanwhile, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) counselling psychology expert Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzil Che Din felt that the influx of foreign workers would have implications on the lifestyles of the locals.
He said although some of the foreigners were highly educated, their contrasting lifestyles could disrupt local lifestyle patterns, thus exposing the local community to social interaction risks that may be detrimental to future generations.
The situation could get more alarming, said Mohamed Fadzil, if locals were coerced into learning and assimilating the cultures propagated by the foreigners.
“The entry of more foreign workers into the country will lead to further acknowledgement of their cultures. Although they contribute to the development of the nation, some of them bring with them their negative culture of littering (and poor hygiene). Then, there are those who create more conflicts by marrying local girls.
“It will not be surprising if, one fine day, we are forced to accept a certain new ‘culture’ when, by right, the foreign workers here are supposed to respect Malaysian cultures and customs,” said Mohamed Fadzil, who is also UPNM Deputy Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Alumni.
He said the presence of foreign culture in the country might also complicate the government’s plan to introduce basic cross-cultural education in schools.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had recently proposed that basic cross-cultural education be emphasised in the school curriculum in Malaysia, starting from pre-school or kindergarten.
Commenting on the security risks posed by foreign workers, crime analyst Datuk Akhbar Satar said the authorities should step up their enforcement and monitoring activities to prevent untoward incidents that may compromise the nation’s security.
It was also essential for the government to vet the foreign workers’ personal records to ensure that they would not be involved in criminal activities that could disrupt the nation’s harmony, he said.
He added that the government should carry out a thorough study to find out why the nation needed so many foreign workers when it already had enough local manpower.
“We don’t know for sure but there may be some among the foreign workers who come here for other purposes and not just to look for work,” he said.
Akhbar said based on his observations, criminal activities and social problems involving foreigners were not new in this country, with some of them even having their own settlements and making the locals feel isolated.
“Employers should give opportunities to the locals to work in their respective sectors because unemployment may cause our people to resort to crime.
“If our employers don’t help and support the local citizens, then who will? As Malaysians, why aren’t they reflecting their patriotic values (by giving priority to fellow citizens),” he asked.