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Living Conditions: Migrant Workers in Malaysia


One of the current practices in Malaysia that are somewhat ethically dubious is the living conditions that migrant workers are subjected to. On average, Malaysian companies that bring in contracted workers place them in low-cost housing projects with up to 12 or 20 people within a single three-bedroom apartment that is roughly 60 to 70 meters in size. Since these apartments normally contain only 1 shower and 1 kitchen (Nesadurai 2013).

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This limitation in the number of bathrooms severely hampers the ability of workers to be able to get ready for work in a comfortable manner. They often have to get up several hours before their shift even starts just to be able to use the bathroom and make it to the designated pickup point (Hill 2012). There are also several issues related to hygiene (several people forced to live in a cramped environment is unhygienic), security (low-cost housing is often in the poorest and most dangerous parts of the country) and utilities (there is a lack of sufficient allocation towards proper lighting and water). Taking all these factors into consideration, it can be seen that migrant workers in the country live in exceedingly poor conditions.

Moral Framework: The Golden Rule

Under the moral framework of “the Golden Rule”, a person should “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. Within this particular context, the case where migrant workers in Malaysia are crammed into small apartments and have to endure a considerable lack of privacy, lack of freedom of movement, as well as exposure to potentially unhygienic practices can be considered a violation of the Golden Rule.

The fact is that no one would willingly subject themselves to such conditions if an alternative method of living could be devised. While companies in Malaysia can argue that they are at least providing a means for their workers to have some form of shelter, the fact remains that the conditions they subject their workers to are exceedingly poor and actually promote the spread of disease due to the cramped environments (Dannecker 2005).

The solution to the Issue

One viable solution to the issue at hand would be to simply provide a better means of housing for the workers and reduce the number of people that are crammed per apartment. Instead of placing 12 to 20 people into a 60 to 70 square meter apartment, a more viable solution that does not promote the spread of disease would be to limit the number of individuals to two per room (Sundra-Karean & Syed Ahmad 2012). This setup would result in a more viable living environment and would promote more hygienic practices to prevail. It should also be noted that the areas where the workers live should be located in safer locations and much closer to the areas where they work.

The problem with the current setup is that there are numerous complaints regarding distance workers have to travel on a daily basis as well as the various dangers they experience living in a dangerous area (Crinis 2012). Companies that provide apartments for workers to live in have the moral responsibility to ensure that the lives of their workers are not placed in constant danger and, as such, safer living conditions need to be implemented. In order to make such a strategy more viable, the cost of better and safer accommodations for workers can be passed along to consumers.

Reference List

Crinis, V 2012, ‘The Challenges of Fieldwork: Researchers, Clothing Manufacturers, and Migrant Workers’, SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 168-189. Web.

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Dannecker, P 2005, ‘Bangladeshi Migrant Workers in Malaysia: The Construction of the “Others” in a Multi-Ethnic Context’, Asian Journal Of Social Science, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 246-267. Web.

Hill, DP 2012, ‘Port reform, South Asian migrant workers and spaces of vulnerability in Port Klang, Malaysia’, Asia Pacific Viewpoint, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 105-117. Web.

Nesadurai, HS 2013, ‘Malaysia’s conflict with the Philippines and Indonesia over labour migration: economic security, interdependence and conflict trajectories’, Pacific Review, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 89-113. Web.

Sundra-Karean, V, & Syed Ahmad, S 2012, ‘The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility and Soft Law Options in the Protection of Migrant Workers’ Interests in Host Countries – The Case of Malaysia’, Asian Journal Of Social Science, vol. 40, no. 4, pp. 509-523. Web.

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