Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Way to Measure the Concept Precarious Working Conditions in Oil Palm Plantations

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Way to Measure the Concept Precarious Working Conditions in Oil Palm Plantations

Article excerpt

Abstract

Oil palm plantations are the backbone of the Malaysian economy, since day immemorial. When you look into the past, the workers in the oil palm plantations were dominated by Indian and Chinese communities. Later due to the sigma associate with oil palm plantations jobs viz., dirty, dangerous and distance, the Indians and Chinese workers moved away from the oil palm work and they were replaced by Indonesians and Philippines. These foreign workers whom having the legal and illegal status under enforcement in Malaysia, have been living in remotely located inhabitations engaging in 'dirty, dangerous and distance' wise oil palm plantations. Though the larger oil palm plantation companies ensure minimum living and working conditions for the foreign workers, vastly located small holding plantations never follow such minimum and fair working environment. These conditions to be correlated with the term "precarious working conditions' in small holding oil palm plantations. Due to lack of availability of the locals to engage in oil palm work, the plantations have to depend on foreign workers do all these 'dirty, dangerous and distance' workers in oil palm plantations. Except a few literature available from Amnesty international and local NGOs, there is less evidence to prove the existence of such exploitative working conditions in oil palm plantations. In order to explore precarious working conditions in oil palm plantations thus a qualitative research study is conducted in the Sabah region of the Eastern Part of Malaysia. The study followed, triangulation method through interviews with the migrated foreign workers, (legal and illegal), focus group discussions and Delphi technique with the identification of experts in the field to arrive at the factors and categories related to the theme 'precarious working conditions' in oil palm plantations. The outcome of the study fixes the variables that need to be concentrated for a higher level research through quantitative research.

Keywords: living conditions, working condition, plantation, foreign workers

1. Introduction

Malaysia is facing problem of labor shortage in oil palm plantations and the country is highly dependent on foreign workers coming from Indonesia and Philippines. Contextualizing the topic to the eastern part of Malaysia, the Sabah region of Malaysia, which is having 62.74% (268,992 people) foreign workers working in oil palm plantations, in comparison with the total Malaysia (450,396 people, in plantations). To improve the average annual plantation yield to 26.2 tons per hectare will require the harvesting of over 5 million hectares of mature trees by 2020; assuming harvester productivity of 1.5 tons per hectare, the industry will require 289,000 workers. There are currently 187,000 harvesters in the country and hence, the industry would have required a net addition of 102,000 harvesters to meet the targets if there was no replacement in mechanization or an increase in worker productivity. The locals in the regions are not willing to engage in the oil palm plantation since because they work in the plantations is labeled as dangerous, dirty and distance job. Moreover, the working and living conditions of the oil palm plantations are very much pathetic and majority large and smallholdings are filled with foreign workers. Even though an awareness of working conditions and foreign worker deployment in the oil palm plantations are available, very less literature that to support this issue providing evidence to the policy makers. In order to explore the factors related to the precarious working conditions prevalent in the oil palm plantations an exploratory study has been conducted in the Sabah region of the eastern part of Malaysia. This exploratory study made use of direct interviews, focus group discussions and Delphi technique to arrive at factors ad categories related to the working and living conditions of the foreign workers in oil palm plantations in Sabah region. …

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