November 26, 2014

Malaysia needs North Korean workers for “dangerous” jobs

Malaysia’s deputy home minister has defended the nation's use of migrant workers who do jobs that locals do not "dare to take."

The country’s use of foreign labor has been criticized following the death of three migrant workers in a mining accident in Sarawak.

A large proportion of Sarawak’s mining workers have come from North Korea, under a special agreement between state authorities and government officials in Pyongyang.

The defector-led North Korea Strategy Centre has claimed that up to 90% of these workers’ wages are being paid directly to the Pyongyang government.

However, Malaysia’s deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has argued that these North Korean employees were working legally, as well as filling necessary labor gaps.

He said: "When it comes to industries such as coal mines, the jobs are very dangerous and tough […] No local or Sarawakian will dare to take up such jobs – that is why [we] need foreign workers."

Osea Giuntella has analyzed this issue in more detail, noting the strong trend that immigrants are more likely than natives to work in risky jobs and take on physically intensive tasks. As such, he suggests that more open immigration policies could have a positive effect on overall productivity levels.

However, Guintella also notes that this trend inherently leads to a deterioration of immigrant health and job safety standards. Policymakers should therefore focus on improving migrants’ awareness of job-related risks, and improving overall working conditions.

Read more here.

Related articles:
Do immigrants improve the health of native workers? by Osea Giuntella
Do migrants take the jobs of native workers? by Amelie F. Constant
Do immigrant workers depress the wages of native workers? by Giovanni Peri