Thursday, January 11, 2007

Foreign Workers

There is a lot of Indonesians in Malaysia. Most of them are low-skilled workers like maids and construction workers.

Low-skilled foreign workers account for an estimated 20% (15% are legal) of Malaysia's total workforce as per recent article in New Straits Times about chaos without foreign workers. They work in security, constructions, factories, restaurants, plantations and other industries. Of course, also as maids. They come from many countries too: Vietnam, Bangladesh, Philippines, India, and Myanmar.

Foreign workers let "local" workforce to pursue higher value activities that can contribute to, presumably, better economic returns for themselves and the country. On the other hand, these foreign workers are cheaper too. For instance, local workforce will cost construction 30% more.

It's good opportunities too for the foreign workers. They make much better living than they do in their home countries.

But, what is it for the "exporting" countries? Will these workers add values when they come back? Will the gap between the exporting country and the importing country get bigger?