By MIN LWIN
A Malaysian government proposal to double the levy on companies employing foreign labor will hit Burmese migrant workers hard, according to Rangoon employment agencies.
The Malaysian proposal is intended to offer greater job security to local workers in the current economic slowdown. “With the doubling of the levy, the cost of hiring foreign workers will be higher,” Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam told Malaysian employers. “We hope this will make employers prefer to hire locals.”
Until now, the Malaysian government has levied a fee of RM 1,200-R1,800 (US $331-$500) for each foreign worker employed by a local company. The proposed hike in the levy will double it, although it will not apply to the country’s construction, plantation and domestic help sectors.
More than 2 million foreign workers are employed in Malaysia, including an estimated several hundred thousand Burmese. They are mostly employed on construction sites, rubber plantations, in factories and restaurants.
Burmese factory workers earn a monthly minimum of RM 550 ($152), while service industry workers are paid a minimum of RM 750 ($207). But in order to secure work in Malaysia they normally have to pay up to 1.6 million kyat (US $1,200) in agents’ fees.
A Burmese employed in the Malaysian industrial town of Kelang said migrant workers were also expected to pay the Malaysian levy out of their monthly wages.
“I must pay nearly twenty percent of my salary,” he said. “If the Malaysian government doubles the levy, we’ll have to pay 40 percent of our wages.”
Burmese sources in Malaysia said many migrant workers from Burma returned home worse off than when they left, after paying agencies fees and the levy.