Tuesday, 8 September 2015

"I see foreign people."

Our friends in the south are having something called an 'election.' Apparently, they poll and cast votes and choose the wisest man or woman to lead their nation for a few years. This is called a 'democracy,' I'm told.

One of the hottest topics in the Singaporean election is the topic of foreign workers. Singaporeans argue that too many foreign workers take up Singaporean jobs, at a margin that's something like 1 in every 10. Of course, like Malaysia, most jobs like customer service, waitstaff, and menial labour go to foreign workers. However, unlike Malaysia, a ton of high-level executive positions are given to foreigners, too. This is probably what bothers Singaporeans most: High-paying jobs in their own country are going to pendatangs. Hmm.

Malaysia, however, sits comfortably in the hands of its own people. Company executives, CEOs, and the like, are mostly Malaysians. Malaysians of every colour, every religion, from every corner of the country. This makes me very happy. It's one of the things I ponder on whenever things get a little hairy. The reason for this is because, Malaysia offers great things to those who make a decent living. There's freedom of lifestyle, with little restriction on car ownership (another bane of contention for our southern friends), a decent quality of life is guaranteed, and our EPF schemes aren't half bad. Sure, income tax is ridiculous, but that's for another day.

We suffer from having to host a large number of foreigners, too. However, the situation here is different. Here, our foreign labour is restricted almost exclusively to low-level labour-intensive positions. Our nation was built on the backs of hardworking foreign labour, and that's just the reality of things. They clean our streets, they maintain the order of our offices, they make our food and they clean up after us. At home, they watch over our children, they layan our elderly relatives, and they cook according to what we want (with some success).

We don't like our foreigners because they come here in questionable circumstances ("Ada permit ke tidak ni?"), send a bulk of their earnings abroad (which aids the continued devaluation of the Ringgit), pretend like laws don't apply to them (have you seen how they treat our sewage systems?!), and a considerable number of them turn to a life of crime (I have met three foreign weed dealers in my travels). I think our distress at the foreign labour issue is warranted, especially when the media tell us we'll be looking at over a million of them on our soil as soon as 2020. Pretty sure that wasn't a part of Tun Mahathir's Wawasan.

To my Singaporean friends, read on. Your issue is with the number of highly-educated foreigners filling top-level positions. Please understand that many of us flock to the City State because you offer a better, more stable, more orderly quality of life than the nations we come from. The fact of the matter is, your foreigners aren't quite like ours. They don't run amok like ours do. Lain keadaan, bro. I'll be damned if I see my boss, a Ph.D holder, litter and loiter in the Central Business District the way many of our foreign labourers do on the streets of KL. So there's no need to get your knickers in a twist.

Foreign labour flocks to Singapore because Singaporeans leave Singapore. Highly-educated types will try and forge new lives in Australia, or in England. The grass is always greener on the other side, so away they go. Malaysians specifically fill the jobs that Singaporeans themselves aren't interested in. We can't talk about the large Filipino population in Singapore, as most of the time, the waitstaff I meet along Orchard Road are Filipino. Can't really live without them, the same way we can't say anything about our foreigners. But the highly-educated types... go easy on them la.

The situation is more complex there. Not so much so here. So don't compare Malaysia's situation with that in Singapore, or vice versa. It'd be awfully bumptious of you to do so. And you wouldn't want to do that, now do you?

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