Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal Vol. 6 (2) September 2006 p. 37-48

Labour Constraints in the Plantation Industry

Daud Amatzin
Received:    Accepted:    Available Online:


In the case of modern Malaysian plantation scenario, there is already ample legislation in place to create conducive labour relations environment as well as to enhance industrial and economic growth. Its main functions are: protection of the economic and social interest of workers, assist in enhancing national productivity and in promoting and preserving industrial harmony in the country. It also encourages employers in the private sector to employ disabled persons, promoting activities to facilitate and improve the planting environment so as to enhance the participation of unutilized workforce into the labour market. Certainly, the quality development of human capital will ensure continued progress for the nation. Hence, employers are duty-bound to invest in training. However, with a population of about 25 million and a vast area under cultivation of tropical crops such as oil palm, rubber, cocoa and paddy covering about 6 million hectares and a thriving manufacturing, construction and services sectors, intense competition to recruit suitable and available local workers is the norm. Today, it is evident that through the process of Malaysianization, the ownership of plantation equity is predominantly under Malaysian hands. Thus, conflicting priorities set by decision-makers, both in public and private sectors at times create a challenging situation as well, which may be one of the reasons discouraging the local population from being attracted to plantation life. Overall, there is a shortage of manpower in the plantation sector. In order to sustain economic growth of the country, the government has been pragmatic in their approach to fulfill the manpower needs. Thus, employment of guest workers (generally known as foreign workers) from approved source countries were allowed in order to alleviate the shortage of manpower in certain sectors, including the plantation and construction industry. However, with the influx of migrant workers with various background and disposition, many challenges are encountered. There has been some tension between the local community and guest workers. Cases of abuse and mistreatment attracted the media into reporting them as sensational news and may have influenced policy-makers. Policies change frequently, employer’s dependency on guest workers increases with the area under cultivation. Local workers shun the plantation sector in favour of better working environment in and around urban setting. Over reliance on one particular group of guest workers has proved to bring negative impact. Additionally, of late (05/05/05), the Prime Minister (PM) had just outlined that addiction to cheap foreign labour as being one of the three Malaysian few bad habits, If we are not serious about combating this problem, maybe it is time for us to venture into other businesses which

About Post Author