Immigration control and unemployment top worries among Malaysians, says Ipsos
Foreign workers

Youths still studying at various education levels have the highest reported level of worry in terms of unemployment

By DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By BLOOMBERG

The influx of foreign workers in the country which might be a result of “slipshod immigration control” is currently the top concern among Malaysians, a study by a leading independent market research company revealed.

In its inaugural study titled “What Worries Malaysia”, Paris-based Ipsos also discloses that Malaysians from various walks of life have also listed governance, in particular government and corporate conduct, as well as unemployment as the other two major concerns.

“The concerns among our fellow Malaysians are by no means insignificant and social issues such as immigration and unemployment are profound and have a direct impact on the livelihood of all our citizens,” Ipsos Malaysia MD Katharine Davis said.

The study was conducted among a total of 2,027 consumers aged between 15 and 64 years old across Malaysia.

While the concern on the influx of foreign workers is common among most Malaysians, the study also revealed that the Malays, specifically from rural areas as well as those surveyed with a household monthly income of less than RM3,000, were most worried about this issue.

Looking into the data, there seems to be a correlation between the concern on immigration control of foreign workers and unemployment, as the correspondents are mainly from the same groups.

The research also showed that youths who are still studying at various education levels have the highest reported level of worry in terms of unemployment.

The agency’s past researches had shown that when unemployment rate went up, the concern on uncontrolled immigration would rise as well.

“Thus, it is likely that if the unemployment rate goes beyond 4%, the worry on uncontrolled immigration (foreign workers) in Malaysia will intensify considerably,” it said.

This has become more evident in recent years, particularly in the context of local unemployment that is a direct result of lower wage jobs being relegated to foreign workers by employers.

“The average Malaysians still have the perception that the influx of foreign workers has worsened and the issues have not been adequately addressed by the government.

“Despite the government’s pledge in keeping the number of foreign workers at a maximum of 15% of the total workforce in Malaysia, there are many states which have already long surpassed this threshold,” the report stated.

However, Davis said even though the public’s perception can become a reality, it currently does not reflect the reality found in existing statistics and numbers.

According to the Home Ministry statistics, there are roughly 1.9 million documented foreign workers in the country who make up about 14% to 15% of the local workforce. The figure, however, does not include data on illegal foreign workers.

“If you look at the distribution of foreign workers, there are states that have breached the 15% benchmark,” Davis said, adding that the households in the “breached states” are the most concerned about immigration control.

The study also found that while the fear of unemployment goes across the board, the ones who are truly affected by it are households earning less than RM1,000; single Malay females; and the youths from Generation Z ,which represents 15 to 24 year olds.

Ipsos also reported that governance was slightly more of a concern among middle-class Chinese.