News & Views > Analyses
Are We Decent Enough?
8 January 2011 | The Star | By Authors : R. Segarajah
In keeping with the Malaysian Decent Work Agenda, the Human Resource Ministry is focusing on various labour-related policies and strategies.
The world is and will continue to be different from what we have experienced in the past. Competition for investment, job opportunities and human talent has become more intense. No country can be insulated from events happening elsewhere. The structure of Malaysian society has experienced drastic changes to bear with the new social and economic demands.
In this regard, promoting and sustaining employment, assuring job security, demand for an appropriate level of wages and enhancing social protection are some of the issues that need to be addressed to cater to the needs of the 11.6 million labour force.
The notion of Decent Work was introduced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as “opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity”
The Decent Work Agenda is embedded in the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for Fair Globalisation, reflecting the wide consensus on the need for a strong social dimension to globalisation in achieving improved and fair outcomes for all. It stresses that the strategic objectives of employment, social protection, social dialogue and rights at work are inseparable, interrelated and mutually supportive, and deemed crucial to all workers, regardless of their status.
Within these contexts, the Human Resources Ministry has formulated its own strategies to realise the Decent Work Agenda in Malaysia, focusing on six priority areas aimed at creating employment opportunities and ensuring workers’ rights, maintaining harmonious industrial relations, resolving industrial disputes fairly and equitably, developing a competitive workforce, implementing dynamic occupational safety and health programmes, and providing the necessary social safety network.
In light of the above, the ministry has attempted to put into place many new programmes in keeping with the Malaysian Decent Work Agenda.
Job carnivals at state and district levels were organised to provide a one-stop focal-point for potential employers and employees to come together. Complementing these programmes is the JobsMalaysia employment portal, which facilitates online jobs registration, matching and placement, as well as the ministry's nationwide network of JobsMalaysia Centres which renders direct personal interaction and advisory services on employment opportunities to facilitate the requirements of both employers and job seekers.
A new approach to bring jobs to the people was also initiated, where job fairs were held in areas with high concentration of people such as public housing and industrial areas.
The ministry is also focusing on providing jobs for the homeless, where its officers together with employers seek the homeless on their “home ground”and offer them immediate employment. Initially, this programme is being piloted in the Klang Valley to gauge its effectiveness.
In a similar vein, registrants under the e-Kasih database identified as hard core poor and interested in employment under the 1 Azam Kerja program are sought out and offered a choice of three different employment opportunities.
In an endeavour to encourage part-time work as an alternative mode of employment, the Employment (Part Time Employees) Regulations 2010 has been formulated to provide greater flexibility in the labour market.
It is the ministry's attempt to enable the latent workforce, comprising amongst others housewives, retirees and students, to work according to their capacity and needs.
In an effort to create a harmonious and conducive industrial relations eco-system in Malaysia, the ministry has embarked on an exercise to amend the three main labour legislations, namely the Employment Act 1955, Industrial Relations Act 1967 and Trade Unions Act 1959, to keep in tune with the times.
Numerous discussions and consultations were held amongst the various stakeholders to assist in updating and fine-tuning some of the provisions to keep them current and relevant to the new economic realities, both locally and globally. Getting consensus has not been easy as both the employer and employee organisations and some of the social partners seem entrenched in the old way of doing things.
The recent economic crisis has shown that the Government needs to provide a better safety net for affected workers.
Efforts are being undertaken to strengthen the labour safety net, in keeping with the Decent Work Agenda. One initiative being currently finalised is the Relief Fund for Loss of Employment, which is intended to assist retrenched workers who are not paid their due benefits, as provided under the law, by providing them financial assistance for a specific period of time.
Initially, it is proposed that this Fund be financed by the Government, with the ultimate aim of developing an Unemployment Insurance Scheme to which both employers and employees would contribute accordingly.
The Government has also instructed the ministry to put in place the necessary framework for the implementation of the National Minimum Wage. Consultative sessions have been held with our various social partners, including in Sabah and Sarawak, to seek the preliminary feedback from the rakyat. The National Minimum Wage Act is being formulated to enable the establishment of the National Wages Consultative Council and the necessary legal framework required for its operations.
As the nation moves forward with the Government Transformation Program (GTP) and its NKRAs, the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) and its NKEAs, the 10th Malaysia Plan and the New Economic Model, there is a need to balance the employers’ demands for greater efficiency and flexibility with the workers needs for employment stability, and effective and appropriate social security protection.
In the New Economic Model: The Concluding Part, recently released by the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), many policy measures have been proposed both under Workplace Transformation and Workforce Transformation. As the Ministry puts in place the many operational plans to achieve the desired state, it is important that all stakeholders and social partners, and the rakyat in general, come on board and recognise the implications of not moving forward within the global context.
As Malaysia moves boldly towards Vision 2020, the various labour-related policies and strategies that need to be put in place to enable Malaysia to be plugged into the international economy should not be tagged as being pro-employer or pro-employee, but ultimately pro-Malaysia, to do what is best and “decent”for the country. Let us all together do this, for the children and grandchildren of Malaysia.
Publication : The Star
Publication date : 8 January 2011
Number of views :