Migrant Workers in Malaysia: The Hope for the New Life

Introduction: To the Basics. Migrant Workers and Their Problems

Over the past few years, a number of attempts to explore the specifics of the migrant working force in Malaysia, as well as outline the basic problems that the Malaysian migrant employees face when having to work in the new environment have been undertaken. In addition, a number of theories concerning the reasons behind the difficulties that Malaysian migrants experience in the new setting have been offered. Considering the basic theories explaining the causes of the problems faced by the Malaysian migrant workers will help define the theory that Hope for the New Life can adopt to solve the current issues will help define the best possible strategy for the organization.

The Variety of Migrant Workers and Their Cultural Backgrounds

Among the possible reasons for Malaysian migrant workers to fail to reach success in the new environment concerns the lack of cohesion between the migrants. The reasons for the latter not to form close groups and, thus, strive for the common good, are numerous; however, the primary one is the fact that these migrant workers have very diverse national backgrounds. According to the existing theory, the migrant workers in Malaysia prefer to abstain from contact with the representatives of other cultures. To be more exact, the Nayu migrant workers make efficient use of cell phone networks to communicate with each other, yet do not get in touch with the Indian and Bangladesh migrants in Malaysia (Bunmak, 2012a). The relationships between the Malaysian and the Indian population could also be much better; as Jeyathurai (2012) asserts, the prejudices of the Malaysian population towards the Indian migrant workers combined with the chauvinist moods in the Malaysian society makes it practically impossible for Indian female migrant workers to succeed (Jeyathurai, 2012). To make the matters worse, the relationships between the Malaysian and the Indian population are darkened by the fact of recent British colonialism (Jeyathurai, 2012). As a result, “Unsurprisingly, women were subject to the sexual advances of their male counterparts as well as those of colonial intermediaries and administrators” (Jeyathurai, 2012, 306). In addition, according to Bunmak’s research, most Malaysian migrants, like Nayu, do not have the urge to cognize foreign culture (Bunmak, 2012). Therefore, another theory behind the lack of success among the Malaysian migrants is the inefficient cooperation between communities. Hence, the corresponding leadership theory that Hope for the New Life can possibly adopt is the transformational leadership style, which can help change the environment in which the migrant workers live in Malaysia (Chi, Lan & Battogtokh, 2012).

The Migration Paradox: Welcome to the Xenophobic World

One of the most popular theories that explain what exactly goes wrong in the migrant community within the realm of the Malaysian labor force market is the xenophobic theory. According to the assumptions made by Joachim Francis Xavier, there is a “Malaysia’s migration paradox” (Xavier, 2012, 38), which means that Malaysians welcome additional labor force yet have a prejudice against foreigners. Therefore, Malaysians encourage migrant workers to apply for Malaysian jobs, yet apparently give the migrant workers a very cold shoulder.

The Problems That Malaysian Migrants Face: A Theoretical Foil

Needless to say, there have been a number of explanations concerning the reasons for the obstacles appearing in front of the migrant workers in Malaysia. However, apart from the psychological explanations for the lack of trust towards the migrant labor force among the Malaysian population (i.e., the notorious xenophobia), the specifics of certain social aspects should also be brought up. Shedding the light on the imperfections within the Malaysian society will help the Hope from the New Life provide the Malaysian migrants efficient assistance.

Forced labor

No human being can be subjected to involuntary actions; this is the fundament for a society based on justice and equality. However, according to recent research, the Malaysian migrant workers market can be possibly suspected of the unlawful use of migrant labor resources. For instance, Huling (2012) makes it clear that the Malaysian employers often resort to forced labor strategies to drain the power of their employees to the last force, since the latter is a much cheaper labor force and considerably less demanding than the Malaysians. As Huling explains, migrant workers in Malaysia are “often forced to migrate by extreme poverty and need, which makes them highly exploitable” (Huling, 2012, 631), especially women. Therefore, Hope for the New Life will have to adopt a situational leadership theory postulates to convince migrant workers that following the unreasonable demands of the employers is not the best way to receive a reward.

In fact, there have been a number of researches devoted to the problem of migrant workers’ exploitation and the related issues. For example, Cook emphasizes that the rights and freedoms of migrant workers are often infringed not only in Malaysia but also all over the world and that, sadly enough, there is very little that can be possibly done about it. “The question of how to counter or reverse restrictive national policies toward migrants becomes especially difficult for migrant advocates and for migrants themselves” (Cook, 2010, 146). According to the author, the problem concerning the rights of migrants has become the topical problem on the agenda of almost every country of the world, and Malaysia is no exception: “Securitizing migration, therefore, makes ample political sense for states in terms of symbolic political value, the assertion of national sovereignty, and the political payoff of fear, such as votes for those who advocate border security” (Cook, 2010, 155). As Crinis (2010) says, the issue of forced labor has been addressed several times, yet with little result. That said, it is the duty of Hope for the New Life to adopt a situational leadership approach to make the rates of migrants framing drop, if not driving them to nil, which the strategies of situational leadership can help handle (Cook, 2010).

Gender issues

Along with the financial and economical improvements, the idea of equality must be introduced into Malaysian society, existing theories insist. Therefore, Hope for the New Life will have not only help the Malaysian migrant workers overcome the existing financial and economic issues but also fight the gender prejudices that have been rooted deeply in Malaysian society. Asking such questions as “What are the patterns of remittance-sending behaviour of migrant domestic workers? What are the gendered patterns among those receiving remittances in the country of origin?” (Rahman & Fee, 2009, 104), Rahman and Fee’s paper makes it clear that the gender segregation makes one of the key stepping stones for the lives of migrant workers in Malaysia. That said, the Hope for the New Life should consider the behavioral patterns adopting which the Malaysian migrant workers can change the attitude of the Malaysian employers, which the transformational leadership theory will help with (Rahman & Fee, 2009). Reinventing the migrants’ perception of gender and eliminating the prejudices in the community, Hope for the New Life will be able to help the migrants fight for their rights.

Health concerns

According to another theory, the reason behind the problems of the migrant workers in Malaysia concerns health issues. Indeed, it is hard to deny that the level of healthcare services provided for the migrant workers leaves much to be desired in every corner of the world. In Malaysia, however, according to the report produced by Chan et al. (2012), the state of affairs is even worse: “On the 501 migrants examined, 171 (34.1%) were found positive for lgG, and 26.1 were positive for lgM” (Chan et al., 1012, 10). Therefore, the health issues theory can be considered among the most legitimate explanations of the Malaysian migrant workers’ problems.

Conclusion: Searching for the Possible Solutions. Migrant Workers Need Help

Therefore, it can be concluded that the key problem within the community of Malaysian migrant workers stems not only from the fact that the migrant employees display a lack of cohesion and are unwilling to work as a team but also in the moods within the Malaysia community and the attitude of the Malaysian people towards the migrant labor force. Based on the existing theories concerning the introduction of the migrant force into Malaysian society, one can deduce that the migrant workers need to restore their reputation in the eyes of the Malaysian population. With the help of Hope for the New Life as a force that will keep the Malaysian migrant workers together and lead them towards a more conscientious lifestyle, the current problems of the Malaysian migrants will dissolve.

Reference List

Bunmak, S. (2012). Migrant networks of irregular Nayu workers in Malaysia – The case of the Tom Yum restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Journal of Society and Space, 7(2), 37–44.

Bunmak, S. (2012a). Cell phone networks and migrant networks: The case of Nayu migrant workers in Malaysia. Malaysia Journal of Society and Space, 8(1), 38–49.

Chan, B. T. E. et al. (2008). Seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis among migrant workers from different Asian countries working in Malaysia. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 39(1), 9–13.

Chi, H.-K., Lan, C. H. & Battogtokh, D. (2012). The moderating effect of transformational leadership on knowledge management and organizational effectiveness. Social Behavior and Personality, 40(6), 1015–1023.

Cook, M. L. (2010). The advocate’s dilemma: Framing migrant rights in national settings. Studies in Social Justice, 4(2), 154–164.

Crinis, V. (2010). Sweat or no sweat: Foreign workers in the garment industry in Malaysia. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 40(4), 589–611.

Huling, A. (2012).Domestic workers in Malaysia: Hidden victims of abuse and forced labor. International Law and Politics, 44, 629–680.

Jeyathurai, D. (2012). Labouring bodies, labouring histories: The Malaysian-Indian estate girl. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 47, 303323.

Rahman, M. & Fee, K. L. (2009). Gender and the permittance process. Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Asian Population Studies, 5(2), 103–125.

Xavier, J. F. (2012). Malaysia’s migration paradox. Eureka Street, 22(3), 38–41.