BY: Michelle Liew

It is time for us to rebrand subordinate jobs as well as those that are dangerous, dirty and difficult (3D) so that they are no longer looked down upon or shunned.

According to the former President of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor, the social status factor of the sector’s workers, which lacked public recognition, HAVE made the locals reluctant to participate.

The grave misconception of such jobs being for ‘uneducated’ people have caused an increase in the country’s dependence on foreign labour, which ultimately brought about an unbalanced effect on the country’s economy.

For example we take a Malaysian worker who works in Singapore as a toilet cleaner, SD2,000 (per month), but is called an environmental health officer. Here, we call the ‘toilet cleaner’ and that causes a lot of ignorance and tendency for anyone to take up the job.

He attempted to prove this negative mindset with a question, “If you go to your partner’s house and his parents ask you what do you do for a living, do you think they will be willing to accept your answer if you said “toilet cleaner”?”

On the contrary, where the same job description is rebranded to a better term, it seems to have the opposite effect. Even though it is essentially the same job, the name matters and the negative mindset can be changed.

“But if you work in Singapore, you are known as an environmental technical advisor. It is not the same here because we never made the attempt at changing that and continued to rely on foreign workers.”

Our tendency to hire more foreign workers, he said, was because they did not have to contribute to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), thus the company’s money could be saved.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) says that the increase in the minimum wage will benefit foreign workers more and more money will flow out of the country, but Abdul Halim thinks it needs to be implemented to be more commensurate with the rising cost of living today.

“Maybe one day our minimum wage will be levelled for those who are qualified to be the basis of training, that is, before they get a job according to their respective approvals.”

In Japan, garbage collectors are known as sanitation workers and waste management engineers organise and manage waste disposal, collection, and recycling facilities. It is evident that its names put more respect to their jobs and caused a paradigm shift in people’s mindset and have also raised awareness to the hardships in doing such jobs. We hope that one day, Malaysia will be able to follow the footsteps of Singapore and Japan.