Hiring of Foreign Workers: Malaysia wants to revert to G2G
In a major policy shift, the new Malaysian government wants to reintroduce G2G, a state-level labour recruitment system, to eliminate middlemen in the recruitment that has always been marred by corruption and exploitation.
“We don't want G2G Plus. Any arrangement should be government-to-government [G2G],” Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran said on Sunday, reports Malaysian daily The Star.
“There's no reason why we cannot employ direct from the source countries,” he told reporters at a programme in Ipoh, capital of the Malaysian state of Perak. If the middlemen were removed, there would be less chance of corruption, he observed.
He said people who come to Malaysia as guest workers are not slaves and they should be treated with respect.
“There was no headache during G2G then -- and we want to go back to that.”
His remarks came following a huge controversy over G2G Plus, a labour recruitment mechanism under which 1.64 lakh Bangladeshi workers migrated to Malaysia since 2016.
The Star on June 22 reported that an “organised trafficking syndicate”, led by a Bangladeshi businessman with alleged political connections with the Malaysian home ministry, raked in at least two billion Malaysian ringgits from Bangladeshi workers in just two years.
The workers paid RM20,000 (around Tk 4 lakh) each to their Bangladeshi agents, who then paid half of the sum to the syndicate to have work permit approvals and flight tickets to Malaysia, said the report.
The scam in Bangladeshi labour recruitment is not new. Thousands of Bangladeshi workers had to return home from the Southeast Asian country in 2009 after it put a freeze on hiring workers following widespread media reports of labour exploitation.
Additional workers were recruited for many name-only Malaysian companies during 2006-09 when private recruiting agents sent works to Malaysia. Workers were charged over Tk 2 lakh each though the government had fixed the migration cost at Tk 84,000 each.
After about four years of freeze, Bangladesh and Malaysia in 2012 signed a G2G deal to reduce migration costs and corruption, but only 10,000 workers could secure jobs in Malaysia under the agreement, thanks to alleged conspiracies of the recruiting agents and brokers.
Under the deal, workers could only have jobs in Malaysia's plantation sector, which raised questions about the sincerity of the authorities.
Following the Andaman boat crisis in 2015, which revealed how Rohingyas and Bangladeshis were taking the sea route to Malaysia, the Malaysian government and recruiting agents started saying that the G2G system was not working.
Amid pressure from private recruiting agents, Bangladesh and Malaysia signed the G2G Plus agreement in 2016, but migration experts expressed concern that it would drive up the migration costs.
The scandal involving the G2G Plus surfaced after the political changeover in Malaysia in May this year when the government launched a campaign against the corruption of the previous government's ministers.
According to The Star report, only 10 out of over 1,000 Bangladeshi recruiting agents got the right to hire workers under the G2G Plus arrangement.
Malaysian Minister Kulasegaran announced suspending the G2G Plus, launching a full investigation into the matter and reviewing the recruitment system with Bangladesh and other countries.
He talked of the policy shift on foreign worker recruitment on Sunday, only days after Nepal barred its workers from going to Malaysia, alleging monopoly by a Malaysian company in recruiting Nepalese workers and charging them higher fees.
The Nepali Times on July 20 reported that a deeply-rooted nexus of politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats in Nepal and Malaysia looted more than Rs 5 billion over the past five years from vulnerable Nepali migrant workers.
Migration expert Anisur Rahman Khan called the new Malaysian government's realisation about the labour recruitment a very welcome development.
“Over the years we have seen how the involvement of private recruiting agents and illegal middlemen resulted in huge corruption and labour exploitation,” he told The Daily Star.
Efficient handling of the G2G in cooperation with Bangladesh could bring discipline to the sector, said Anisur, director of migration programme at Awaj Foundation, a labour rights body.
He, however, said the lead should come from Malaysia as South Korea did in 2004 when it introduced a state-run mechanism of recruiting foreign workers. It significantly lowered migration costs and improved migrant labour conditions in South Korea.
He demanded Malaysia follow the path of South Korea.
An estimated one million Bangladeshi workers are now working in Malaysia, said Bangladesh High Commission officials in Kuala Lumpur.