Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fong's fallacy: Minimum wage will bring deluge of foreigners

According to Fong Chan Onn, a minimum wage will bring a 'deluge' of foreign workers.

Fong: Minimum wage will bring deluge of foreigners

The Government fears a potential huge influx of foreign workers in certain sectors should it adopt the RM900 monthly minimum wage and RM300 cost of living allowance (Cola) advocated by MTUC.

“If the floodgates are opened, foreign workers may come in droves, especially to work in rural sectors. This will displace the locals,” said Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn.

He added there was a high possibility of foreign workers, especially those from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, coming here because they knew their minimum monthly income would be guaranteed.

Dr Fong said if the MTUC’s minimum wage formula was adopted, it would have to be extended to all workers, regardless of nationality.
Hmmm, I have 2 questions for the minister.

1. Isn't the number of foreign workers in Malaysia determined by the Immigration dept (which issues work permits), Human Resources ministry (which issues approvals for companies to hire foreign workers) and of course enforcement by our security forces at all entry points into the country?

So, no matter what the minimum wage is, shouldn't the number of foreign workers be exactly what these ministries and govt agencies allow into the country?

Is Dr Fong saying foreigners can come and go as they wish?

And if Dr Fong responds that these foreigners are the illegal ones... wait a minute, why do we have to pay the minimum wage to illegal workers? Theoretically, we shouldn't be paying them anything at all, isn't it? Isn't the minimum wage a moot point here?

2. With a minimum wage where local and foreign workers are both paid equally ie. RM1,200... doesn't this mean that hiring foreign workers will no longer pose a cost saving to employers vs hiring local workers, as is the current situation?

Won't local workers actually be cheaper because employers don't have to pay for visas, health checks, foreign levies, recruitment fees etc, thereby directly improving the cost competitiveness of local workers vs foreigners?

Or does the minister mean to say that employers will still choose to hire foreign workers even though they cost more? Then, isn't the minimum wage, again, a moot point?

Imho, the logic is so sloppy that I can't help but imagine that this is merely a convenient and politically neutral stunt double - for some other more compelling, hot potato of a reason that the govt has, for rejecting the minimum wage proposal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, malaysian worker might be cheaper than the foreigner.. but when it comes to the availability of those in demand worker, (i.e; construction labor, waiters, garbage collectors, etc), is it possible for those related firm to find them?