Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cheap Labour???

It seems many Malaysian households cannot do without foreign maids these days. One neighbour said she sat down and cried when her maid left. But overnight her children became the house elves. They swept and mopped, helped with the laundry and the dog. There is still hope for this spoilt generation. However, when a replacement maid came, the elfin selves all ceased. It was back to 'kakak this' and 'kakak that'. I

We need maids to help with the care of the house, kids and even dogs. I learned that from someone. I always thought that dog people don't mind all the hassles that come with a dog. Seems that I was wrong. Just like kids, we need someone to scoop up the poo, clean their ticks and bathe them too. So now, we need maids for that as well. Kids and dogs... Not much separates them.

It seems the construction sector will be crippled without these cheap labour. Our own people prefer to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun or to our neighbour down south to build their skyscrapers because their labour is worth much more there than in their own homeland. Many travel to the West too for better earnings. A vacuum is created back home and it's only natural that cheap labour flock to our country and live in rumah panjangs or squatter areas, cos that's all they can afford. Swaths of land are set upon and turned into home away from home.... births of new kampungs. And in these new frontiers, sex, drug and gambling dens flourished as in the days of old. We think these are new social problems but they actually are not. It's actually same old problem, different spot on the same timeline.

And so social problems are revisited. Maids come into the picture of a marriage. Families turn porak-peranda. China dolls come in search of better prospects. Many turn to hawking China wares. You find many lonely (and not so lonely) men buying up all their wares. Men stand no chance when 'assaulted' by these sweet and smooth talking ladies. A friend once told me her husband came back with 10 pairs of the same slippers. Another elderly person I know came back with bags of herbs which he swore was very good for health. Social problems... I bet it was like this too long time ago. Anyway, we do the bride-to-order thing via mail now too, as in the days of old too.... though it wasn't called that back then.

Close proximity... Germs like close proximity. Certain types especially thrive when there is promiscuity. And they rule when humans huddle together in communes. It was announced years ago that we had licked the tuberculosis problem. Well, it's back with a vengeance, stronger and more resistant to many antibiotics. Walk into the hospital and you will know what I mean. We have many TB patients seeking treatments at our hospitals. Ever heard of Hansen's Disease, where the loss of sensation can cause parts of the body to become horribly deformed? We used fo dread leprosy. If you were inflicted with the disease, you would be discriminated. You would be isolated to a lepers' colony. Pulau Jerejak was a lepers' colony. Well, back during the first wave of immigrant workers, many of those with leprosy were those who came from China. Migrants from impoverished areas are more likely to have infections. Well, some reports claim that there are more leprosy cases now. Leprosy is a disease of the tropics and we live in the tropics. Perfect place for it to thrive. Our cheap labour today still come from the tropics too.

Imagine this. A teacher gets infected with tuberculosis by her maid. She in turns infect her students who then infect their family members. Infectious diseases find their way into our community with ease. And they spread with greater ease. Add that to sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, AIDS, syphillis... without the migrant workers, they are already problem enough. With cheap foreign labour, it spreads exponentially.

Factories too need these cheap labours. So do the F & B outlets. Apparently locals are not willing to work hard enough. Foreign labour not only work hard but come cheap. Double bonus. I recently patronized an outlet where the waiter couldn't even understand what we wanted. Sign language got us no where. In some places, you point and order. It's now not uncommon to see wantan mee and charsiew fan stalls operated by a Cambodian or Vietnamese. Cheap labour... But slowly too, I am seeing new food being added to our already rojak Malaysian cuisine. We're truly on our way to become an Asian melting pot. So for those who keep on harping about racial supremacy, at this rate that we're importing cheap labour, there'll be dilution soon enough.

There are many plus points for cheap labour... Women joining the work force which does wonders to their confidence and self worth, more disposable income for a household, etc, etc... But, nothing comes free in this world. Eventually we have to pay the cost for cheap labour. And I think we have started paying big time. Crime rates have started climbing up. Safe isn't so safe anymore. Cheap labour, it may not be that cheap in the long run... but we still need them. And in time to come, we too will have to embrace them into our society because like the Chinese and Indians who came so long ago in search for a better life, many stayed and made here home.

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