I REFER to the letter “The poor most affected if minimum wages imposed” (The Star, May 17) and totally disagree with the writer.
If his argument holds water, the lowest of the low income group should not be paid at all. They should only get subsistence and then we would have full employment. But is that what the writer is advocating and is that what we want as a nation?
Malaysia is well endowed with natural resources, capable, educated and trainable workers, thriving international trade and is one of the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) recipients.
We have almost full employment and more than 20% of our workforce are foreign workers, many of them unskilled and competing directly against our local labour. I would add that foreign workers have a distinct advantage over local workers because their cost of living at home is much lower than ours. They are thus in a position to accept much lower wages than our workers. Also because of their circumstances, they are prepared to work longer hours, sometimes more than 12 hours a day.
So, with cheap and readily available foreign workers, manufacturers and other producers of goods and services have little or no incentive to use relatively more expensive production processes like automation.
If the Government does not come in and actively improve the skills of local workers and regulate the import of cheap foreign workers, the future of Malaysia’s lower end workers is bleak. It will be difficult to progress to a high income society if unskilled and cheap foreign worker issues are not addressed.
I urge the Government to actively engage in the issue of minimum wages for the benefit of all.