Danni Rais

Political and Humanitarian Activist

 

The American Dream, defined by the always trustworthy input of the general public that is Wikipedia, as the national ethos of the United States; a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.

This was also the vision that was epitomised and immortalised by Hollywood, with cult movies highlighting the various stories of immigrants making the great escape from their countries of origin, and the struggle to succeed, inspiring its viewers of a possible rags to riches story that can happen to anyone. Whether true or not, the statistics perhaps does not exist.

Nonetheless, what the American Dream did succeed was inspiring unto others outside of America a hope, and that the grass was indeed greener on the other side. It cannot be denied that the influx of immigration into America was very high, especially so from the Hispanics. This movement of people seems to continue to this day, albeit at a much more regulated pace. This dream, so potent to the dreamers, that taking up hard labour was seen as a better future for the immigrants and their families, as the prospect served them a better life in comparison to their land of origins. Nonetheless, despite its flaws of reality in which not every individual was able to properly achieve such a dream that they had invented in their minds, the effect it has to this day has been profound – leaders from immigrant parents have emerged to lead the most popular ‘free’ nation in the world.

Emigration and immigration is always essential for the growth of a country. When a bloc of countries are involved, the freedom of movement becomes even more crucial, allowing for its people a common platform to find opportunities that otherwise they would not have been given, or found, in their country of origin. Whether it is based on optimism, hope, or desperation, emigration of people have existed from the beginning of time. This is the common platform for knowledge and experience to be passed, learnt, nurtured or perfected. Nonetheless, the ratio of those that emigrate from a lesser developed country to a more developed country far outweighs if that ratio were to be the other way. And within ASEAN, it is not difficult to see which country currently has the highest number of immigrants entering the country. This notion is subjective, as often, such immigration is more labour workforce based, rather than specialised and technical workforce. To reason this point, Singapore would be a country in which they experience a great migration of expatriates who are learned, whereas Malaysia has a great number of foreign workers (a lesser degree of expatriates given by people’s mentality) who are more labour work based.

With this, we have found the new American Dream. Malaysia is the land of opportunities for many from different countries that are considered less developed than her. Otherwise, why would there be such a great influx of foreigners entering Malaysia if they were not going to strive for greener pastures? Hence the reason as to why, if one were to look around them, on a daily basis, in every aspect of life, there is a person of foreign origins that is doing some sort of manual labour. While this is deemed to be good, unfortunately, it has come to the point where the country has become dependant on the manual labour done by foreigners who do not mind being paid lesser than if a Malaysian were to be doing the same job. Just like the American dream, where you could never imagine an American becoming a gardener.

This migration into Malaysia continues to the present day, and its apparentness can be seen at most eateries, in which the majority of those serving customers are foreigners, unable to speak the local language. Even security guards, trusted to maintain peace and order within guarded neighbourhoods, are composed mostly of foreigners. In terms of domestic help, it is ever so rare to ever hear someone say that their maid is Malaysian. Such instances prove a high degree of dependency on foreign labour. It will come to a point where we will have to ask ourselves, to what degree do we want to be dependant?

Essentially it will come to a tipping point for Malaysia and her people to realise for themselves whether this influx of foreigners entering the country is a good thing or one that is detrimental to the growth of the country. This is because the growth of the country is not only in economic terms, but also growth for human capital. It is only natural that those that come to the country to search for opportunities, will learn more skills and knowledge, and with enough enthusiasm and grit, they will find a way to achieve it for themselves. The final step of this would be for them to take back all skills and knowledge acquired, and go back to their country of origin, in which then they will apply all that they have learnt, and they will spread this to others, and allow for growth in their economy. By then it will be too late for Malaysia to realise that the opportunity cost of which is a vacuum that will be difficult to fill.

What will happen, when all the people who work at mamak stalls suddenly decide to leave the country? What if every family will have to fend for themselves, without any maids to assist in homely affairs? Who will build the buildings that have become the beacon of development in Malaysia, if all the foreign workers were to go back to their countries of origin? In short, Malaysia’s growth and daily function would crumble if this risk ever came true. The impact it would have on the country would be exponential. Yet, it appears that the influx of foreigners coming into Malaysia seems to only be increasing. Why?

This begs the question as to how long will Malaysia be able to sustain this dream? Of hope and opportunity; the long-term effects of it will have major consequences in the way the country moves forward. Essentially, these people will integrate with society, and what already is a melting pot of cultures, will just become bigger. However, how will Malaysians view this?

Meanwhile, one must also look at the Malaysian dream for Malaysians already living in the country. Does the country itself present enough ray of hope for its people to continue and strive, persevere, to achieve what they want for their own sake? This is the true force that will ensure the country continues to catapult itself into the future. However, the greatest weapon for people to achieve, can also be the cause of their greatest downfall – if the hope no longer resonates within their minds and hearts, then there will be no more cause for them to want to achieve more. The importance of which is that if every individual prospers, it will have a positive domino effect for the country in moving its economy forward.

Self sufficiency is crucial. It determines that a country does not depend too much on foreign labour. In developed countries, manual labour pays just as well as any skilled job. This emphasises the growing importance placed on vocational colleges in Malaysia, an effort placed by the Ministry of Education in their long-term pipeline for the improvement of education in the country. In turn, we will be giving the opportunity of such jobs to our very own Malaysians who require a better income. However we will never be able to truly help them if we do not take such precautionary steps.

Malaysia is often very fond of their low unemployment rate. However, looking at the state of immigrants working in Malaysia, it is not surprising if many find the numbers slightly difficult to believe. Integration becomes a cause for concern, be it in the short or long run, as culture, language, practices and beliefs will have to find a place acceptable to Malaysian society as a whole. As such, the frustrations from Malaysians begin to grow, as communication becomes more difficult, and many attribute the influx of foreigners to an increase in crime rate.

Perhaps such migration is normal. Otherwise the Immigration department would certainly be put under the spotlight. While foreign labour is cheap, the long-term effect of it cannibalising the opportunities for Malaysians is far worst. A double-edged sword, in which the benefits of immigration comes hand in hand with its concerns.

 

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