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Nepal May Lose Malaysian Security Jobs as Malaysia Mulls Hiring Workers From Pakistan
The Southeast Asian country, one of the most favoured work destinations among Nepalis, is in negotiations to hire nearly 150,000 Pakistani security guards
Chandan Kumar Mandal
The Kathmandu Post
10 February 2020
Malaysia, for long, has been a secure job market for Nepali workers, especially in the security sector jobs. But that could change soon.
According to reports, the South East Asian country is currently in a bid to import workers for security jobs from countries other than Nepal as well.
Malaysia is in negotiations with Pakistan to bring in Pakistani workers for security jobs, media reports say.
Negotiations have intensified in the recent weeks, and both countries are discussing the possibility of hiring nearly 150,000 security guards in Malaysia, reported The Nation, a Pakistani English daily. “The initial negotiations between both the countries have already been held at the highest level while modalities to formalise the hiring process were being worked out,” Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Malaysia Amna Baloch was quoted as saying by the Pakistani paper.
The development can seriously affect Nepal’s labour market in Malaysia, which has been one of the most popular labour destination countries among Nepali workers, according to experts and officials familiar with the development.
For years, security sector jobs have been reserved for Nepali migrant workers.
“It was never said that security sector jobs were only for Nepali workers. But it was somehow an undeclared internal policy that Nepali workers would be hired for security jobs [in Malaysia],” said Jeevan Baniya, a labour migration researcher with the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility at Social Science Baha. “Once they start hiring workers even for security sector jobs from other countries, it will automatically lead to a drop in the number of Nepali workers in the sector.”
Nepali youths’ migration to Malaysia dates back to the colonial era when they were recruited into the British Army. These workers were also hired for rubber, sugar and palm plantations in what was then known as Malaya that comprised present-day Malaysia, Singapore and other territories.
Although labour migration to Malaysia witnessed a surge in the 1990s, Nepal started issuing labour permits to Malaysia-bound workers only in 1997, according to a factsheet report of the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility.
Malaysia, however, recognised Nepal as a source country for foreign workers only in 2001. And since then, Nepalis have worked in various sectors like manufacturing, construction, plantations, agriculture and the service industry. Malaysia, however, has been an attractive destination among Nepalis for the jobs in the security sector in recent years after the country saw an economic boom.
“As Malaysia began its industrialisation drive, it needed the labour force to guard infrastructure and property. Nepalis were welcomed for the security jobs by Malaysians also because of their identity as Gurkhas, their bravery and dedication,” said Baniya. “Now, once Malaysia starts hiring from other countries like Pakistan, it will definitely impact our labour migration. Nepal needs to compete with other countries.”
Ex-security personnel and others with training in security-related jobs are employed in Malaysia in the security sector, which is considered relatively better jobs in terms of perks and remunerations.
According to Rohan Gurung, ex-president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, the umbrella organisation of recruiting agencies supplying workers to foreign employers, Malaysia takes in anywhere between 25,000 and 30,000 Nepali workers annually in the security sector.
“The ongoing negotiations clearly show that Nepal is going to feel the heat, as security jobs have long been reserved for Nepali workers,” said Gurung. “A Nepali security guard can make around Rs45,000 to Rs50,000 in Malaysia, which has better working conditions than in the Gulf countries.”
Malaysia and Pakistan are expected to formalise the possibility of hiring Pakistani guards during the upcoming visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Kuala Lumpur. Both countries are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding during Khan’s visit.
Malaysia’s latest attempt to reach out to other countries could be part of its plan to explore other countries to hire workers.
“Also, the long impasse in sending Nepali workers to Malaysia following a ban might have encouraged the Malaysian government to look for other options. A long halt in sending workers had its effect on their economy,” said Baniya. “While the labour migration cycle was broken when Nepal stopped its workers, the cultural affinity between Malaysia and Pakistan and Bangladesh encouraged them to hire workers from those countries.”
Public perception towards foreign workers in Malaysia, however, has remained discouraging.
A 2019 report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concluded that Malaysians still harboured negative and false perceptions about migrant workers and extended low support for their rights.
Those working in the field of labour migration say the government needs to find out what forced Malaysia to explore other options.
“We are on the verge of losing Malaysia as a major destination country for Nepali workers,” said Gurung. “If it is the investment for the hiring of Nepali workers done by employers, then we should talk to them. If they require some specialised training for Nepali security guards, we need to explore this aspect as well.”