Friday, 11 July 2014

Sending Better Workers Overseas

“The more [workers] we can send [abroad], the more money we can earn and the more money comes back to Cambodia. Sending 300,000 domestic workers to Malaysia would amount to $1.5 billion in remittances annually. It is the future for Cambodia – we have to distribute our workers to the demand of the world market. I will work hard to protect migrant workers from exploitation.”

Othsman Hassan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, 23 December 2013.

Eyes of any GDP-conscious economists would lid up like a Christmas tree in front of the promise of $1.5 billion in the annual remittances. Some will find Othsman Hassan’s promise to fight the worker exploitation much assuring and comforting. According to his calculation and plan, the remittance per worker to Cambodia will average at $5,000 per annum, or $416 a month.

However, how much does Othsman Hassan know what he is talking about? It does not seem much if he is talking about domestic foreign workers, or some politically-incorrect refer to as domestic slaves.

These workers are unlikely to fulfil his grand plan. Incomes of domestic foreign workers vary, depending on the country they find themselves in. In Taiwan, their monthly income is about $530; in Hong Kong, $517 plus food allowance of $118; in Singapore, around $360; in Malaysia, as low as $120. Besides the income variation, working conditions also vary. And only naive and gullible would think that better working conditions would make up for the low income. Hence, there will not be too many domestic workers who would be able to contribute $5,000 a year toward the Othsman Hassan GDP growth.

Then again, he may just be talking about sending to work overseas only those Cambodians who have a much higher income potential, like engineers, economists, politicians, political advisers, and generals for his remittance dream – after all, the Cambodian future is at stake. No wonder Othsman Hassan chose not to hang around at a workshop on foreign workers last Monday to hear an outpouring of frustration from representatives of domestic slaves.



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