KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 8): The fear of uncontrolled inflows of unskilled labour flooding the local market upon the realisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is unfounded as the movement of unskilled labour is subject to the respective countries’ labour laws, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.
It is unlike skilled labour, he said, “where mutual recognition arrangements have been signed for [some] professions, including engineering services, architecture, accountancy and nursing and medical practitioners”.
Mustapa was speaking in response to concerns about the potential influx of unskilled migrant workers and employment barriers that might still exist upon Asean’s integration by 2015 that were raised during an interactive session with civil society organisations that was held by his ministry on the AEC and its post-2015 direction, today.
Malaysia will be taking the chair of Asean with the task of leading the preparation for Asean’s direction post-2015.
“From 2007 till today, the labour force was not given a roadmap towards AEC in 2015. There is a fear that as much as we see the emphasis on investment and business, [the benefits] will not filter down to the workforce,” said National Union of Bank Employees general secretary J Solomon.
He noted that professionals would tend to be more attracted to pursuing opportunities in more developed countries, exacerbating talent shortage issues in less-developed countries.
Human rights issues such as the treatment of migrant workers in Malaysia and the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar were also raised.
“We would like to see more affirmative actions to protect and solve the problem, where Muslim Rohingyas find it hard to seek refuge under UN protection. Asean needs to put more pressure on Myanmar to stop ethnic cleansing,” said Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia activist Abdul Kareem.
On a separate matter, Mustapa told the press on the sidelines of the session that Malaysia is set to achieve an increase in total trade growth of 6% this year.
“We believe that our trade performance will be better than last year’s 4.7% growth. We’re expecting it to be at about 6%, so there’s a slight increase in total trade growth,” he said.
Mustapa added that while the recent removal of fuel subsidies – which has resulted in the increase of petrol prices by 20 sen per litre – has been unpopular with the Malaysian public, but it remains necessary for the long term financial health of the country.