By Lim Guan Eng
DAP Secretary-General and Bagan MP. He is also the Chief Minister of Penang

DAP strongly disagrees with Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan who blamed 'lazy Malaysians' of adding to the country’s unemployment rate by refusing to take up job opportunities thus leading to the influx of foreign workers.

According to the Statistics Department, the unemployment rate is at 3.4 per cent as at November last year, or 484,600 of the 14.2 million of the country’s total labour force.

Referring to the jobless, Ahmad Maslan had said, “They are worse than just lazy. There are around 300,000 of them, who are just sitting and doing nothing”. This attack, to us, is not only unfair but also incorrect.

Barisan Nasional leaders should realise that it is not lazy Malaysians who add up to the country’s unemployment rate, but lazy BN policies with low pay and low productivity especially for 3D (Difficult, Dirty and Dangerous) jobs.

BN has failed to implement robust and proactive labour policies to improve wage, productivity and work conditions for workers by importing foreign workers.

How can there be pride in work when it is lowly paid and placed on the same level as unskilled foreign migrant workers? It is no surprise that a declining economy coupled with price hikes in sugar, petrol, power tariffs and highway tolls have caused both financial hardships to working Malaysians and caused unemployment to climb up from 2.8% in June 2013 to 3.4%.

Although there are 2.1 million registered foreign workers in the country, the number of illegals could actually be doubled.

Foreign remittances by these foreign workers amounted to RM20 billion in 2012. The full implementation of the minimum wage policy (RM900 in peninsular Malaysia and RM800 in Sabah and Sarawak) in 2014 affecting nearly 1.8 million workers, mostly migrant workers, as compared to 1.5 million workers in 2013 will only cause the foreign remittances to rise to RM30 billon this year.

The Malaysian Employers Federation estimated that the increased labour cost of foreign workers in Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) will result in an increase in total costs for some SMEs by up to 10%. The average increase in productivity by 2-3% per year will be insufficient to compensate for the increase in costs of 10%.

The impact from the minimum wage would come from higher overtime charges for foreign employees who work an average of four hours of overtime per day as well as on rest days and public holidays.

DAP proposes that the minimum monthly wage be increased to RM1,100, combined with a grace period to SMEs for five years from extending this to foreign workers. This would help to increase income for 14.2 million Malaysian workers and help economic growth by protecting Malaysian SMEs.

This proposed rise in mimimum wage for Malaysian workers will help to offset rising prices and also encourage more Malaysians to seek work. RM1,100 monthly is acceptable to Small and Medium Entreprises(SMEs) provided that it does not cover foreign workers. After the five-year grace period, SMEs have to pay the same minimum monthly wage to all foreign and local workers.

When people are unemployed, usually people blamed the government. Here, it was the other way around where BN government blamed the unemployed! Is being unemployed now considered wrong? Ahmad Maslan should withdraw his statement and apologise for such insensitive and focus on creating more higher paying jobs.