“I USED TO WORK IN THE FIELDS” MALAYSIA AS A TIGER ECONOMY

·       Only half of the 18m population of Malaysia is ethnic Malay. Population is an ethnic mix of Malay, Chinese and Indians. The upper class Malays traditionally led and governed the country, but are increasingly turning to business. The Chinese population were traditionally the business classes, who were the most entrepreneurial. The Indians were traditionally military or police workers, along with servants or labourers.
·       Malay firms survive by supplying the TNCs within the country. The location of the TNCs is a deliberate choice by government.
·       Initial TNC attraction was based upon the creation of a “Free Trade Zone” within Penang. This zone offered zero tax for 10 years, and the government promised a supply of docile, skilled workers. The majority of the foreign investment was based on foreign management at the upper levels.
·       Malaysia currently has an annual growth rate of 8%.
·       The effects of the TNCs has filtered down to the population at the community level. More than 1 million Malaysians, three times more than previously, are employed with manufacturing.
·       There is a change from rural base to urban living. The “docile, skilled workers” are usually young women, and they are bussed in from their villages, using the “bus kenangs” or “worker’s buses”.
·       Why are women used? They are young, docile, cheap and highly productive as well as having an inherent respect for authority due to their culture values. They are also unlikely to form or participate in union activity.
·       Initially, there was strong objection from both cultural and religious perspectives. It was argued that the TNCs were taking women from the protection of their home and fathers in to an unfamiliar surround. The factories responded by creating a protective atmosphere, and the cultural objections fell away.
·       Locally, the benefits and disadvantages are recognised by individuals. Increasingly there is freedom to choose where to work; the workforce is mobile but the TNC investment is fixed, and factory workers are at a premium. Workers are retained by benefits and packages, e.g. housing.