Technical ReportPDF Available



Abstract and Figures

The is a comprehensive report based on qualitative and quantitative data from 288 Rohingya construction workers in Peninsular Malaysia, collected from May to August 2018. This report covers all aspects of refugee life and work in the construction industry – this includes data and ethnography on the demographics, language, family structure, and finances of these workers. It also describes the nature of construction work in Malaysia, and how the Rohingya work in this field. This includes career progression and specialization, income, hours of work, and job amenities. We focus on construction as it is the most common profession for Rohingya workers.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Monday August 13th, 2018
Dr. Melati Nungsari & Dr. Sam Flanders
Assistant Professors of Economics @ Asia School of Business, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Research Affiliates @ MIT Sloan School of Management, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Emails: &
Executive Summary
The is a comprehensive report based on qualitative and quantitative data from 288 Rohingya
construction workers in Peninsular Malaysia, collected from May to August 2018. This report
covers all aspects of refugee life and work in the construction industry this includes data
and ethnography on the demographics, language, family structure, and finances of these
workers. It also describes the nature of construction work in Malaysia, and how the
Rohingya work in this field. This includes career progression and specialization, income,
hours of work, and job amenities. We focus on construction as it is the most common
profession for Rohingya workers. Section 1 describes our methodology.
Briefly, we find that Rohingya working in construction are youngtypically under 30, and
male. They have generally been in the country for several years, most commonly since 2013.
These workers are concentrated in Penang, Johor, and Kelantan and are usually either
unmarried, or married to a spouse living in Myanmar or Bangladesh. They often speak some
Malay, and a large minority are fluent. Very few are literate in any language. When they are,
it is typically Arabic due to religious study. Their typical monthly income is about RM1,500,
and they remit more than a quarter of it to family abroad. Section 2 describes the lives of
these workers.
On the job, they work about eight hours a day, five days a week. Their daily rate is generally
between RM50 and RM60, with some making more due to experience. While they are
usually illiterate, they are often skilled workers. In particular, many specialize or hope to
Both of the authors would like to thank our institution, Asia School of Business, the Durable Solutions and
Registration Units at UNHCR Malaysia, our research assistants (Dania Yahya Alshershaby, Tengku Shahiran
Tengku Ruslan, and A’isyah Hishamuddin), and the remainder of our research team for their help in the data
collection process. All mistakes are our own.
specialize in wiring. They do not come from construction backgrounds in Myanmarmost
were subsistence farmers. Indeed, they often dislike aspects of the occupation, such as
workplace injuries. However, construction provides the best opportunities for income and
career progression, and many respondents are highly focused on their careers. They typically
find their jobs through friends. Section 3 describes the nature of work for these workers.
In the final section of the report, Section 4, we use the data obtained throughout the study
to construct recommendations for any potential future work pilot program. These
recommendations include
targeting unmarried young men in Penang,
ensuring adequate wages given that the Rohingya in construction already earn a
substantial income,
working with local police to ensure the program’s work IDs are accepted,
incorporating automatic remittances into compensation,
finding job sites convenient to Rohingya population centers, and
allowing applicants to the pilot to apply jointly, so that friends can be placed on the
same job site.
In addition, we have several recommendations for how to market such a pilot:
promote the guaranteed, on time paychecks,
promote the free health insurance,
promote the higher workplace safety of legitimate construction employers,
promote access to banking, and finally
Produce an informational video explaining the pilot in the Rohingya language and
ensure its distribution through community centers.
For readers who want to skip to recommendations, Section 4 where these suggestions are
justified and elaborated on can be read without reading Sections 1 through 3.
Our survey is reproduced in Appendix A and summary statistics from the survey are provided
in Appendix B.
Table of Contents
Section 1: Methodology and Data Collection ..................................................................... 5
Subsection 1.1: Focus Group with Community Leaders .............................................................. 5
Subsection 1.2: Sourcing Survey Respondents for 2a) ................................................................ 7
Subsection 1.3: Sourcing Survey Respondents for 2b) ................................................................ 7
Section 2: Who are the Rohingya working in construction? .............................................. 10
Subsection 2.1: History and Background ................................................................................. 10
Subsection 2.2: Demographics ................................................................................................ 11
Subsection 2.3: Comparison to the broader Rohingya population ............................................ 12
Subsection 2.4: Skills, education, and aspirations .................................................................... 13
Subsection 2.5: Work Culture and Language ............................................................................ 15
Subsection 2.6: Home life and family structure........................................................................ 17
Subsection 2.7: Budget and finances ....................................................................................... 17
Subsection 2.8: Health and insurance ...................................................................................... 19
Subsection 2.9: Relationship to Myanmar and remittances ...................................................... 20
Subsection 2.10: The UNHCR Card and Rohingya Status in Malaysia ......................................... 21
Subsection 2.11: Resettlement ............................................................................................... 22
Subsection 2.12: Relationship to Malaysia and other refugee groups in this country ................ 23
Subsection 2.13: Security concerns police bribes, workplace injuries and violence, violence
with locals, and human trafficking .......................................................................................... 24
Section 3: What does construction work look like for the Rohingya? ................................ 28
Subsection 3.1: An overview of the construction industry in Malaysia ..................................... 28
Subsection 3.2: Other employment ......................................................................................... 30
Subsection 3.3: Nature of the job and types of specialization ................................................... 32
Subsection 3.4: Obtaining construction jobs through social networks ...................................... 34
Subsection 3.5: Career progression ......................................................................................... 34
Subsection 3.6: Effect of current regulation and workplace inspections ................................... 35
Subsection 3.7: Workplace Injuries ......................................................................................... 38
Subsection 3.8: Frequency and issues with payment ............................................................... 38
Subsection 3.9: Income ........................................................................................................... 40
Subsection 3.10: Hours of work............................................................................................... 42
Subsection 3.11: Amenities or the lack thereof ........................................................................ 43
Subsection 3.12: Travel to work .............................................................................................. 43
Subsection 3.13: The dynamics between Rohingya construction workers and other migrant
workers at construction sites .................................................................................................. 43
Section 4: Recommendations for the future work pilot .................................................... 45
Appendix ........................................................................................................................ 49
Appendix A: Survey Questions ................................................................................................ 50
Appendix B: Summary Statistics .............................................................................................. 64
Section 1: Methodology and Data Collection
This report is based on two primary sources:
1) A focus group with six Rohingya community leaders in May 2018 who have
experience working in the construction industry.
2) A survey of 288 Rohingya individuals who self-identified as having worked in
construction in the past year. This survey was conducted for three months in June,
July, and August 2018. This survey was composed of:
a. survey work conducted on 201 individuals at the UNHCR headquarters in
Kuala Lumpur, and
b. survey work conducted on 87 individuals at Rohingya Society of Malaysia
community centers in Taiping (Perak), Georgetown (Penang), Sungai Petani
(Kedah), and Alor Star (Kedah), as well as at a Rohingya School in Bukit
Mertajam (Penang).
The survey locations are depicted in Figure 1. It is important to note that 2a) is the most
important source, as it contains the most observations and is most representative, since it
was obtained by interviewing refugees waiting at the UNHCR headquarters in Malaysia.
survey contains 201 and was collected by a research team consisting of 3 full-time research
assistants, 6 UNHCR volunteers, and 1 UNHCR intern. The research team underwent training
prior to conducting the surveys and were re-briefed every week after the principal
investigators (Dr. Melati Nungsari and Dr. Sam Flanders) reviewed the survey data collected
in the previous week. This was for quality assurance and to correct any systematic mistakes
that the surveyors were making so that they were not repeated.
The survey itself had 49 questions, some of which had multiple parts. The survey included 9
open-ended questions where answers were audio-recorded and transcribed. Respondents
were first read a consent preamble describing the nature and purpose of the survey and
their prerogative to decline the survey in light of this information though none did.
Respondents were paid a small cash amount at the end of the survey (RM 10) for their time.
The survey was conducted in Bahasa Malaysia or Rohingya, depending on the survey
participant. If the survey participant did not understand Bahasa Malaysia, a Rohingya
interpreter was utilized. The survey typically took about 30 minutes to complete, although it
ranged from 18 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. The complete survey can be found in
Appendix A.
Subsection 1.1: Focus Group with Community Leaders
To help guide the building of the survey questions used in 2a) and 2b), we first conducted a
focus group with six Rohingya community leaders who have had experience working in the
construction industry. This focus group was done in May 2018, and was led by Dr. Melati in
Bahasa Malaysia. Dr. Sam, several UNHCR representatives, and some members of the
research team were present. This was a loosely guided conversation on the Rohingya
Please refer to Subsection 1.1 for a detailed explanation of this population, as well as the waiting process at
UNHCR Malaysia.
experience in construction and the needs of the community with regard to a future work
pilot program. The conversation was 2 hours long. The community leaders were either
leaders of community organizations or individuals who were identified as “successful
construction workers” in the community. Demographically, they were very different than the
survey respondents in 2a) and 2b) described in Section 1. The average number of years in
Malaysia for the group was 17.3 years, with a minimum of 6 years and maximum of 28 years.
The group was also noticeably older and more experienced the average age in the group
was 40.7 years, with a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 48 years. They also reported
higher daily salaries most had worked as subcontractors in the construction industry (a
vertical structure that is explained in Section 3.1) that went up to RM 200 per day. Even
though the focus group participants were not representative of the Rohingya construction
worker population at large, they did highlight some themes that we explored and affirmed in
the surveys done afterwards.
Figure 1: Survey locations for the study. The red dot indicates the main survey location (i.e. the location for the data
collection in 2a). The green dots indicate the survey locations for 2b). Map was created through Google Maps.
Subsection 1.2: Sourcing Survey Respondents for 2a)
Survey respondents were all self-identified Rohingya refugees who were waiting at UNHCR
Malaysia to either 1) renew their UNHCR card, 2) waiting for their registration interview, or
3) waiting for their resettlement interview. The number of refugees in the third category was
very small (fewer than 5 in the entire sample).
We worked with the Registration Unit at UNHCR Malaysia to conduct consecutive sampling
of survey respondents that is, on the days that we came in to survey (2-5 days a week), all
self-identified Rohingya construction workers who came in to renew their UNHCR cards or
undergo their registration interview and were wiling to participate in the survey were
referred to our research team. In addition to the referrals, members of our research team
also approached individuals who were waiting in the waiting area for either their card
renewal, their registration interview, or resettlement interview. The research team then
asked whether they identified as a Rohingya person, and whether they had worked in
construction in the past year. If the answers to the two questions were “yes”, the research
team then asked for their consent to be surveyed. The research team reported an 80%
success rate in obtaining survey respondents this way, with most of the 20% who refused to
be surveyed stating that they did not want to be interviewed because they were worried
that they would miss their spot in the interview queue. However, since the conversion rate
from referrals to actually being seen and interviewed by the research team is about 100%,
most of the respondents who declined to be interviewed due to fears of missing their spots
in the interview queue were eventually interviewed later in the day.
In conclusion, we are confident that there are no selection issues with the sampling, and
were able to survey almost all self-identified Rohingya construction workers on the days that
the research team was there. Consequently, the observations in 2a) are likely to be highly
representative of the overall registered population of Rohingya working in construction, with
the proviso that it may be slightly over-representative of more recent arrivals.
Subsection 1.3: Sourcing Survey Respondents for 2b)
The latest available UNHCR data on Rohingya refugees in Malaysia (from February 2018),
which was collected at time of registration
, gives the breakdown of construction workers
per state in Table 1. In Table 1, we partitioned all the states in Peninsular Malaysia into four
categories states in the south of the peninsular, state in the north of the peninsular,
central states (i.e. the administrative capital and surrounding states), and states on the east
coast of the peninsular. Northern states such as Penang, Perlis, Perak, and Kedah have the
greatest number of Rohingya construction workers at 45%, followed by states on the east
coast (23%), states surrounding the capital (16%), and states in the south of the peninsular
(16%). Since there appeared to be a large concentration of Rohingya construction workers in
the north, we decided to send a small team of surveyors and two Rohingya interpreters to
At the point of registration, persons of concern are asked their occupation. Some respondents will mention
their occupation in their home country prior to flight, and some will inform UNHCR of their current occupation
in the country of asylum. This being, the data may be not be accurate.
Perak, Penang, and Kedah to interview and collect data from respondents who live and work
To do this, the research team partnered with the Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM), a
community organization that was formed in 2010 to advocate for the needs of Rohingya
refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia.
RSM activities include providing primary
education for Rohingya children, providing access to health care for Rohingya refugees, and
issuing protection letters and other social welfare activities in the community.
Through one
of the RSM community leaders, we managed to organize construction workers in the 3
northern states mentioned above and were able to survey 87 respondents at five RSM
community centers in the north.
It is important to note that even though the sample obtained through 2a) was fairly
representative of the overall population due to the consecutive sampling technique that was
used, the sample obtained through 2b) is far from representative. This is due to two main
reasons. The first reason is the manner in which the respondents were obtained. The
community leader from RSM who was working with us spread the word about the team
being in town through his social networks, which we cannot credibly claim is representative
of the overall Rohingya construction worker population. The second reason is that since two
out of three of the research team members sent to the north were UNHCR representatives,
many survey respondents selected to come to the community centers for reasons that were
unrelated to the survey and their experiences and expertise as construction workers, but
related to general problems that they thought UNHCR could solve. For example, a sizeable
number of respondents wanted to speak to a UNHCR representative about the health
problems they were facing, and since UNHCR did not have an office in the north, the
respondents saw the UNHCR representatives who came on the mission as messengers who
could convey their problems to their colleagues at the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
In fact, statistical testing of the two surveys showed that, for example, wages in Penang
were significantly higher in survey 2b, allowing us to reject the hypothesis that the two
surveys were drawn from the same distribution of workers with 95% confidence. Thus, the
observations obtained from 2a) and 2b) were analyzed separately. For the rest of the report,
all numbers will refer to the representative sample from 2a) because it is highly
representative of the overall Rohingya population. However, qualitative data, such as
quotations from the open-ended survey questions, will be sourced from both 2a and 2b.
Perlis was excluded from the list of states since there was fewer than 1% of construction workers.
Table 1: Number of Rohingya construction workers per state (as of February 2018)
Number of
Number of
Rohingya in
Percentage of
Rohingya that
Work in
Percentage of the
Total Rohingya
Subtotal for
Southern States
Subotal for
Northern States
Subtotal for East
Coast States
Kuala Lumpur
Subtotal for
Central States
Rohingya working in construction in region / Total Rohingya population in region.
Rohingya working in construction in region / Rohingya working in construction in Peninsular Malaysia.
Section 2: Who are the Rohingya working in construction?
Subsection 2.1: History and Background
As of February 2018, the Rohingya people constitute roughly 44% of the total refugee and
asylum-seeker population registered by UNHCR Malaysia.
The Rohingya are a
predominantly Muslim ethnic group from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, most of whom hail
from the western coastal state of Rakhine. Rakhine State consists of five districts: Sittwe,
Mrauk-U, Maungdaw, Kyaukphyu, and Thandwe. These districts are depicted in the map in
Figure 3. The Rohingya people currently make up roughly 2% of Myanmar’s population.
Figure 2: A map from the Myanmar Information Management Unit, a UN organization focused on common information
exchange services in Myanmar, of the 5 districts in Rakhine State.
Data provided by UNHCR Malaysia on the “Active Caseload Breakdown” as of 30th June 2018.
Myanmar was occupied by the British from 1824-1948, during which it brought laborers
from India and Bangladesh into Burma. After independence from the British, the Burmese
government viewed these migrations as illegal many Burmese individuals considered the
Rohingya to be Bengali and not Burmese. The 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law rendered the
Rohingya people stateless as they were not recognized as one of Myanmar's 135 ethnic
Since then, there have been periodic violent clashes between Buddhist and
Muslim communities in Rakhine state, causing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to
neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan.
In its most limited sense, “Rohingya” refers to Muslims from Rakhine state. However, not all
Muslims from Rakhine state use that term some may simply refer to themselves as
“Burmese Muslims” – and some Muslim refugees from Myanmar come from other states,
despite being referred to as “Rohingya”. For example, small minority of respondents come
from Mon State, which is not adjacent to Rakhine State. Despite these geographic
differences, all self-identified Rohingya are Burmese Muslims who fled religious persecution
in Myanmar, and face similar challenges as refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.
Additionally, “Rohingya” is often used in Malaysia to refer to Burmese Muslim refugees
generally, such that policy questions surrounding them apply to all Burmese Muslim
refugees. Thus, rather than take a stand on the appropriate use of the term, this report
studies self-identified Rohingya without regard to their state of origin.
Subsection 2.2: Demographics
Rohingya working in construction come from a fairly narrow demographic range. They are all
male no women were observed in the data. They are also very young. 75% of those
working in construction are below 30, but even this figure may understate how young the
construction workforce is. Since the Rohingya are not able to enroll their children in public
schools and most UN and community schools typically end at age 12, we anecdotally know
that most Rohingya teenagers, especially the males, enter the labor force very early. This
being said, 2.5% of respondents were below 18.
Generally, those working in construction are first generation migrants born in Myanmar.
More than half have been in Malaysia between three and six years. Construction workers are
generally not new arrivals, but neither have they lived most of their lives in Malaysia.
Geographically, Penang has the highest concentration of Rohingya construction workers,
while Terengganu, Johor, Kelantan, Kuala Lumpur, and Selangor have significant populations
as well. These workers primarily hail from the Maungdaw district in Rakhine State and to a
lesser extent, the Sittwe district. However, a substantial minority come from Mon State.
Subsection 2.3: Comparison to the broader Rohingya population
The population of Rohingya working in construction differ in some respects from the broader
Rohingya population, though they are very similar in others (Table 1). Geographically,
Selangor has the most registered Rohingya, but few respondents in this survey come from
the Selangor or KL. This is consistent with UNHCR’s overall statistics (below) on construction
work amongst the Rohingya: Kuala Lumpur and Selangor have amongst the lowest rates of
construction work, with 10-15% of the population working in construction.
Terengganu, and Pinang, by contrast, have a much higher proportion of construction
workers. In these states, construction represents the overwhelming majority of
In terms of age, this survey’s highly left skewed distribution, with many young workers and
few respondents above thirty, mirrors the overall age distribution amongst the Rohingya.
The time since arrival also mirrors the overall statistics for registered Rohingya, with a modal
arrival time of 2013.
Figure 3: Age distribution of respondents
Note that the population numbers include children and adults out of the work force, so 10-15% working in
construction does not mean that 10-15% of working adults work in construction. It will be a larger figure.
Figure 4: Distribution of arrival dates
Subsection 2.4: Skills, education, and aspirations
Rohingya construction workers generally have very little formal education. They are
excluded from formal education in Myanmar, and are not eligible for public school in
Malaysia. Fewer than half had any whatsoever, and less than a quarter had completed
elementary school.
Some Elementary School
Elementary Cchool
Some High School
High School
Some College
College Degree
*Cells are color coded by percentage
reporting that response--darker blue
means more people gave that
**Question titles are abbreviated. See
Appendix A for full question text.
When asked in the survey about his education level, a Rohingya man told us the following
story, which illustrated the systematic social marginalization of the Rohingya people by the
Myanmar government:
Dulu saya di Myanmar, saya sekolah 5 tahun. Saya nak sambung sekolah lagi, tapi
sana, kerajaan dia orang tak bagi. Dia pakai batu. Kalau kita berjaya di sekolah, dia
tak suka. Dia marah. Sebab itu orang kita, tak boleh tinggi-tinggi sekolah. Hanya
boleh rendah saja. Kalau keluar luar negeri, pergi Bangladesh, boleh lah. Situ kita jadi
pelarian, boleh pergi sekolah UN. Kita tak pergi Bangladesh. Kita pergi Burma,
Thailand, pastu terus datang sini.
(When I was in Myanmar, I went to school for 5 years. I wanted to continue school but
there, the government didn’t let me. They used rocks and threw them at me. If I
succeed in school, they don’t like it. They get very angry. That’s why the Rohingya
people cannot go to school in Myanmar for too long, cannot learn too much. We can
only learn a little bit. However, if you leave the country and go to Bangladesh, you can
learn. There you become a refugee and you can go to an UN-run school. But I didn’t
go to Bangladesh. I was in Burma, then Thailand, then I came here.)
Despite the fact that many of the Rohingya cannot read or write in any language, as
described in Subsection 2.5 below, many of them have undergone some form of religious
training, be it at home, in the community, or at a formal madarasah (religious school). Often
times, when asked what languages they read, the workers would say they read no
languages, even when explicitly asked whether they read the Arabic script. However, when
asked if they read the Quran, they more often than not state that they do. Many responded
to this particular question with “Of course, I am a Muslim.”
One man who has worked in the construction industry for 3 years explained to us that he
was formally trained as an ustaz (religious teacher) and had his own madrasah in Myanmar
prior to leaving:
When I teach religious things in Myanmar, I was arrested. They did not allow me to
teach. So, I ran to Thailand and I stayed for 2 years. I learned construction things in
Thailand. Then I come to Malaysia in 2015.
Additionally, many of the workers expressed that they wanted to obtain more formal
education if they could. Most of them also expressed concern about their children’s
education and the future of education for the Rohingya youth.
I didn’t finish my religious studies (in Myanmar), so I want to finish my religious
studies here. Once I finish, in the morning I can do my construction work, at the night I
can teach the kids at the madrasah here.
The construction workers also demonstrated that they were painfully aware of their lack of
education, often comparing themselves to other migrant worker construction workers that
they have met. One construction worker told us the following a sentiment that was echoed
in many of the interviews.
Translated by an interpreter from Rohingya. All quotations in this report without a corresponding Malay
source were translated to English by an interpreter at the time of the interview, and no Rohingya transcript
The boss likes the Indonesians. They have been here for longer than us. Also, they
went to school. They are smart. Our people (the Rohingya) don’t go to school. We are
not smart.
Additionally, the Rohingya are very skilled laborers. As described in Subsection 2.5, many of
them previously worked in the agriculture industry in Myanmar as farmers and fishermen
before coming to Malaysia jobs that require high levels of physical dexterity. Since most of
them have never learned how to read, they tend to rely on their hearing, and are able to
pick up languages very easily.
One man stood out in the interviews he had been here for more than 5 years, lived in
Kelantan, and spoke very fluent Bahasa Malaysia with a Kelantanese accent. He struck the
interviewer as being exceptionally bright, but his story matched many others in the sample:
First time buat, satu minggu dua minggu buat kerja, saya dah pandai buat. Dia suruh
bawak lori, angkat barang, semua saya dah pandai. Yang sebelum ini pun, memang
ada banyak kerja saya dah buat. Wiring ada, welding ada, dan itu yang paling okay
okay. Yang itu saya pandai buat, dan sesuai dengan saya. Semua ini saya belajar dari
pengalaman saya. Saya memang cepat belajar.
(The first time I worked, I worked for only 1-2 weeks, but I learned everything quickly.
They (the boss) asked me to drive a lorry, carry things I knew how to do everything.
Before I did this job, I already knew how to do a lot of things. I knew how to do wiring,
and I was very good at welding. I was good at it, and the job fit me. I learned
everything from experience. I’m very good at learning.)
More than half of the workers expressed that they were optimistic about their lives in
Malaysia. Many expressed, during the course of the interviews, that they would like to be
resettled to the United States. Our hypothesis was that they were under the impression that
the survey was part of the resettlement process, since it was conducted at the UNHCR office.
In the last long-form question, when we asked whether they had anything else to tell us,
many told us that “I want to live in America.” Some provided more details about why they
thought their life in Malaysia was unsustainable:
I would not like to stay in Malaysia because my back hurts and I cannot get medical
treatment here. Also, I cannot send money to my family because I’m sick and cannot
It’s important to note, however, that as mentioned in Subsection 1.3, refugees do get access
to healthcare the main problem is that it is not affordable.
Subsection 2.5: Work Culture and Language
Rohingya in Myanmar have traditionally worked as small-time farmers and merchants.
Dulu di Myanmar, saya tangkap dan jual ikan. Tangkap, makan, jual. 1 kg dapat 2000
duit Myanmar. (~RM 5.50). Tiap hari saya boleh dapat 3-4 ribu (~RM 8.25 RM 11).
When I was in Myanmar, I caught and sold fish. Catch, eat, sell. For 1 kg, I could get
2000 Myanmar dollars (~RM 5.50). Every day, I could get 3-4 thousand (~RM 8.25
RM 11).
Many of the merchants recalled their times as businessmen very fondly up till the point at
which they were forced to leave:
Dulu di Myanmar, saya ada kedai. Ramai orang datang, gaji banyak. Tapi satu hari
dia orang datang, bakar kedai saya. Habis, tak tinggal apa. Lepas itu saya datang ke
When I was in Myanmar, I had a shop. A lot of people came, and I made a lot of
money. But one day, people came and burned my shop. Everything was gone, nothing
was left. Then, I came to Malaysia.
Legal exclusion has kept them largely separate from industrial society, so their experience
with and affinity for factory work is low. Additionally, since they cannot read, they often
panic and feel anxious about working with and around heavy machinery with warning signs:
Selalu, kilang kerja, mesin apapun kena baca tengok. Kitorang kadang-kadang, baca
(Working at a factory, they have to read the instructions before handling any
machinery. But what to do, most (of us) are illiterate.)
Many workers also expressed that they prefer construction work to factory work since they
do not need to know how to read at construction sites:
Construction tak banyak baca. Kalau kilang, factory kerja, kita mesti tahu baca, tulis
punya. Kalau tak tahu pun kena belajar juga
No, no, construction doesn’t require literacy. If it was a factory, we need to know how
to read and write. Even if we don’t know how, we have to learn.
Rohingya are often accustomed to some degree of independence when working, and have
little experience with the highly regimented, time-clock based nature of formal work in
industrialized societies like Malaysia.
While few Rohingya are literate, they often speak several languages. More than 90% speak
their mother tongue fluently. About a third speak Malay fluently as well, and most speak at
least a little. About 10% are fluent in Burmese and Rakhine, respectively. Very few are fluent
in English, Arabic, Bengali, or Hindi, although many speak a little.
Some Rohingya do read in one or more language. Most common in this survey is Arabic, with
about a quarter able to read most words. About 10% can read most words in Burmese, and
less than 10% can read most words in Malay.
Subsection 2.6: Home life and family structure
Rohingya home life tends to be very traditional, with men working and women staying home
to care for their children. Nearly half of respondents were married, and nearly half had
children. In fact, nearly all respondents who were married had children. In most cases, the
wife was primary caregiver, while in many cases the respondent’s mother also watched the
child. Occasionally, the man also identified themselves as a caretaker. Polygyny is not
common in this population only a handful of respondents had more than one wife. Wives
were younger than their husbands in nearly every case, by an average of about five years.
Many of these families have been separated in the flight from Myanmar. Almost half of
wives are outside of Malaysia. Amongst those in Malaysia, the median length of time since
migration in the country is four years. Similarly, many respondents have children still in
Myanmar or Bangladesh. The respondents have an average of a little over two children each,
but only about half of these children are in Malaysia. Two thirds of the remainder are in
Myanmar, and the rest are in Bangladesh. The median age of their children is 6.
Respondents had large extended families, but these groupings are even more fragmented
than the nuclear families. Respondents had almost three brothers and three sisters on
average, but only about 20% of the brothers and about 5% of the sisters were in Malaysia.
Most had living parents more than three quarters had living mothers and about two-thirds
had living fathers but only a few percent of mothers and fathers were in Malaysia. On
average, they had three additional uncles, aunts, cousins, or grandparents in the country. On
average, respondents lived in a housing unit with two bedrooms and five occupants. Thus,
most respondents have roommates. Most of these roommates are Rohingya, but some are
Indonesian or Bangladeshi, and a handful are other Burmese. In terms of access to basic
amenities and utilities, almost all had electricity, cell phones, and running water. About 90%
of respondents had stoves, and about half had a refrigerator and internet, respectively.
About a quarter had a bicycle and about a quarter had a motorbike. Very few had cars or
While many Rohingya are very focused on safety issues due to persecution in Myanmar and
their lack of legal status, about 75% of respondents said that they either agreed or strongly
agreed that their families were safe in Malaysia. About 10% mentioned without prompting
that they are concerned about their children’s’ futures.
Subsection 2.7: Budget and finances
As will be discussed in more detail in Subsection 3.9, Rohingya working in construction have
a surprisingly high income, given their lack of a right to work and limited education.
Respondents reported earning an average of about RM1,420 per month, well in excess of
the current minimum wage of RM1,000. On the higher end of the income distribution, with
years of experience and training, workers can expect upwards of RM 120 or more per day.
One community leader told us the following:
Okey, normal kerja pun RM 50, RM 60. Kalau orang kerja pakai RM 90, RM 100 lebih
pun ada. Tapi orang pandai kerja. Sekarang saya tangan ada tiga orang. RM120.
Satu hari. Dia taruh minyak. Lepas taruh plaster, kena taruh itu satu minyak cantik
punya. Buat polishing.
Normal rates are RM50 or 60. If they (the workers) are good, the rate is higher RM90
or RM100 and above. But they learn quick. Now I have 3 workers, their rate is RM120
a day. He has to apply a layer of oil, then lay the plaster and another oil layer and
finish with polishing.
Respondents pay about RM200 in month rent, on average, with more than a quarter paying
no rent at all, often because their employer covers their rent. They remit about RM500 a
month to family abroad, as discussed below in Subsection 2.9. Average monthly
expenditures are higher for food, about RM500. Respondents pay about RM130 a month for
transport, with more than a quarter spending nothing in a given week. Expenditures for
electricity and water total about RM50, with most spending nothing due to bundled utilities.
Saving is very limited. More than three-quarters save nothing, and the average monthly
savings is about RM60. The overwhelming majority feel they can afford or otherwise access
enough food to get by, but their overall perception of their finances ranges widely. More
than a third agree or strongly agree that they make enough to get by, but more than a third
disagree or strongly disagree.
We also asked the construction workers about how they feel about opening bank accounts.
We first explained what a bank was to them and asked whether they would prefer to keep
money on their self or in a bank account. In Malaysia, there are no restrictions imposed by
Bank Negara for refugees and asylum-seekers to open a savings account. However, due to
the Know Your Customer (KYC) policy practiced by the financial service providers to fulfill the
regulatory requirements by Bank Negara Malaysia and to comply with the Anti Money
Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act, access for refugees to this
basic banking service has been restricted. There are currently only two local banks with
structure in place for refugees to open a savings account, requiring refugees to provide a
copy of their UNHCR card, a supporting letter from their employer, and a supporting letter
from UNHCR. There is currently no legal framework that allows refugees to work, and as
such, individuals can only rely on the goodwill of employers who are willing to facilitate this
process. Thus, while over 90% said they would like a bank account, none of the respondents
currently had one.
Unfortunately, because of this, the Rohingya tend to carry large amounts of cash with them.
A common theme in the survey responses were robberies committed against the workers
involving rather large sums of cash:
When I came on the bus from Terengganu, I got down from the bus at the bus station
and the taxi driver forced me to go into his taxi. I was asked by him where I was going,
and I told the taxi driver that I am going to Kajang. So, then he took me away from
the bus station, the route was unknown to me, I don’t know where he is taking me. On
the way he said he will rob me by showing me sharp knife. My money was taken by
the taxi driver, 400 ringgit. I don’t have a bank account to save this money. Also, I
keep this money for my daily expenditure. I have to buy food and other stuffs. I get
salary every month so I have to spend all this money for one month. That’s why I keep
all this salary with me. Another time, 900 ringgit was taken by the police. I wanted to
send this money to my family because my mother was seriously ill at that time. I was
stopped at the pasar (market), and police took all of my money.
A significant number of other respondents reported small, but constant, instances of petty
When I go out, the local people disturb me. When I go out, they take my money. Every
time, 10 or 20 ringgits.
In conclusion, many Rohingya feel they would benefit from access to banking. One even
notably mentioned that he would prefer a bank account because of interest accumulation.
Many also understood the concept of savings.
Saya nak bank akaun sebab kerja lama-lama, nanti duit saya ada banyak. Akaun
selamat, saya simpan sikit-sikit 100 ringgit satu bulan.
(I want a bank account because once I’ve worked for a long time, I’ll have a lot of
money. My account will be safe. I will save a little bit of money, maybe 100 ringgit
each month.)
Additionally, some respondents also wanted to use a bank account as a way to meter their
Kalau kita simpan duit dekat rumah, kita takut orang ambik. Kadang-kadang orang
nampak kita ada duit, dia tau, dia curi. Kita simpan duit di rumah, duit cepat habis
sebab kita guna makan. Tapi kalau simpan di bank, kita jimat sikit.
(If I save our money at home, I am worried that somebody will steal it. Sometimes
people see us have money and they steal it. If we save the money at home, the money
will finish sooner because we use it to eat. But if we keep it at the bank, we will save
the money instead.)
It is important to note that some respondents also expressed concern that they would not
be able to complete the paperwork on their own, and could not withdraw funds because
they were illiterate.
Subsection 2.8: Health and insurance
As mentioned previously, the Rohingya have limited access to healthcare in Malaysia. While
UNHCR document holders have access to REMEDI, it still costs a significant amount of money
and premiums are expected to increase in the near future. The respondents in this survey
have highly varied opinions of their access to health care. About a third had a positive,
indifferent, or negative opinion, respectively. This heterogeneity may relate to the
intermittent need for care among young peoplethe limitations of their access to
healthcare may not be apparent until they need significant treatment, so those who have
not had reason to pursue care may have a more positive opinion.
Subsection 2.9: Relationship to Myanmar and remittances
The Rohingya have a complicated relationship with Myanmar. About a two third of
respondents want to return to Myanmar in the future, but about a third do not, with few
undecideds. Many remarked (unprompted) that they would only consider returning to
Myanmar if it was safe for them to do so. Many respondents also told horrific stories about
leaving Myanmar when asked about whether they wanted to return some day:
My situation in Myanmar was very bad. Our house was totally destroyed by the
soldiers. To make more money, I have to work in construction when I arrive here. In
other industries, I cannot make as much money.
Many respondents also compared life in Malaysia to life in Myanmar:
Saya tak boleh balik Myanmar. Saya nak hidup di Malaysia sebab saya baru nak
dapat kad. Nanti saya dapat kad, baru saya boleh fikir masa hadapan saya macam
(I cannot go back to Myanmar. I want to live in Malaysia because I’m just about to get
a UNHCR card. After I get a card, then I can think of my future.)
Additionally, a large number of respondents were also very firm about never returning to
Saya tak boleh balik kampung. Sini, saya tak kerja tak boleh makan. Jadi, saya suka
(I can never return to my village. Here, if I don’t work, I cannot eat. So, I like to work.)
Respondents generally had much lower incomes in Myanmar. About a third made no
income, working as subsistence farmers, being unemployed, or being children, and the
average income was only RM180 per month. This huge wage differential drives the large
volume of remittances noted in Subsection 2.7. Many respondents spoke of the importance
of remittances to family members in Myanmar in great detail, and in fact, many use the fact
that they need to regularly send remittances to family members as a reason why they have
to work in constructions, where the wages are typically high (but with correspondingly
higher risk). One community leader summarized this sentiment to us during the focus group:
Kita perlu gaji tinggi sikit sebab hantar kampung dekat sana. Kita mesti kuat kerja,
kerja keraslah sebab ada keluarga dekat Myanmar. Itulah kita kena hantar sana. Sini
pun ada family. Kita kena jaga dua familylah kira.
(We need higher pay since we have to send back money to our village. We must work
hard. We have our relatives at home in Myanmar. We have to support them and our
family here too. We have to support both families.)
Subsection 2.10: The UNHCR Card and Rohingya Status in Malaysia
The UNHCR card, once granted, provides an array of benefits to the holder. UNHCR cards for
Rohingya refugees are issued every 3 years. The renewal process is short and less
complicated than first-time applications. A sample of the card is displayed in Figure 2.
Figure 5: A sample of the refugee card issues by UNHCR Malaysia
Malaysia has not signed the 1961 UN Convention of Refugees, which means that it does not
legally recognize the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. In particular, Malaysia makes no
distinction between refugees and undocumented migrants. Practically, amongst other
things, this means that refugees cannot legally work, are subject to arrests and deportation
by the police, cannot send their children to public school, and cannot access subsidized
public healthcare for themselves and their family. The UNHCR card is one of the only forms
of documentation that a refugee can obtain in this country. Although it does not convey any
legal rights, it does reduce the barriers to jobs as local employers are more likely to hire
refugees who have cards than those who do not. It allows parents to register their children
at community-run learning centers across the country and allows refugees to seek medical
care at public hospitals and clinics for 50% the total cost for foreigners. A UNHCR cardholder
may also register for a more comprehensive health insurance plan called the Refugee
Medical Insurance Scheme (REMEDI) provided under RHB Insurance Berhad. The REMEDI
premiums, as of the publication date of this report, are RM 164.30 per year for each refugee
and covers hospitalization and surgeries up to RM 10,000 at public hospitals. Under the
scheme, coverage for personal accidents is available for an additional RM 12.20. The Star
Newspaper reported the following in June 2016:
Families of five or fewer members pay RM206.70 per annum, with an additional
RM20 fixed per child if there are more than three children. The scheme covers up to
RM12,000 per family. For an additional RM12.20, refugees can get personal accident
coverage of RM23,000.
Even with the generous subsidies provided through government-sponsored healthcare
institutions, it is important to note that many refugees face difficulties in accessing
healthcare due to its costs. Many workers expressed frustration not only regarding their own
problems with accessing healthcare, but also their family members:
Hari itu di hospital masa ada baby, dia jahat. Saya tak mahu ada baby lagi. Dia di
hospital pusing-pusing cakap, kata ada macam-macam, tidur dua hari, kena bayar
banyak. Dia tulis 3200 tapi dia caj saya 4800. Kalau tak bayar, dia tak bagi saya
(That time when my wife had a baby at the hospital, the hospital was very mean. I
don’t want to have any more babies. The people at the hospital were telling me all
sorts of things, they said we stayed there for two nights, so we have to pay a lot of
money. It was written that I owe 3200, but they charged me 4800. If I didn’t pay, they
were not going to let us leave the hospital.)
Unfortunately, as is common in other insurance markets across the world, there are very
strong moral hazard and adverse selection problems with those who participate in the
REMEDI insurance program. What this practically means is that the refugees who face more
health problems, have more pre-existing health conditions, and those who work in high-risk
and dangerous occupations will be more likely to enroll in REMEDI. This poses an ongoing
difficulty for the pricing of such insurance schemes.
One of the most substantial benefits to refugees who have UNHCR cards is the limited
protection it offers from law enforcement. As detailed below in Subsection 2.12, refugees
face many problems with the police and immigration. Some of these issues include the
constant fear of being apprehended or jailed, altercations, payments of bribes, harassment,
deportation, jailing at immigration detention centers, and the fear of reporting crimes
committed against them to local law enforcement. The surveys we conducted have
suggested that local law enforcement officers are much more likely to detain and harass
individuals who do not have UNHCR cards than those who do many officers often release
refugees who have cards easily after an interaction, often without the need for bribes.
Subsection 2.11: Resettlement
As noted throughout the report, many Rohingya workers wish to be resettled to other
countries because they believe that it is easier to get jobs abroad, wages are higher, and
they would have better access to health insurance there.
Saya minta tolong, saya duduk di Malaysia. Saya sekarang 5-6 bulan saya sangat
susah pasai saya pindah pergi Butterworth, saya tak dapat kerja. Saya nak cari kerja
satu bulan 3-4 hari saja dapat, nak bayar rumah sewa pun tak dapat. Kalau ada kerja
kosong dekat UN, tolong bagi saya kerja. Saya sudah ada family, anak sudah dua.
Nak bayar sewa rumah pun susah. Lagi satu, saya kalau boleh pergi luar negeri, OK
lagi, Alhamdulillah. Itu saja.
(I want to ask you for your help. Now that I am in Malaysia, it’s been very difficult for
me for 4-5 months because since I moved to Butterworth, I haven’t been able to get a
job. I want to find a job but I only get 3-4 days in a month this isn’t even enough to
pay my rent. If there are any jobs with the UN, please give me a job. I have a family
with two kids. I can barely pay my rent. And also, if I can go abroad (and get
resettled), that would be better. Alhamdulillah (Praise God). That is all.)
Many refugees, including Rohingya, do not understand that resettlement quotas for
refugees living in Malaysia have declined in recent years. In fact, UNHCR data from March
2018 shows that as of 2018, only 481 refugees had department for resttlement. This is only
about 0.45% of the entire population of peoples of concern registered in Malaysia.
Subsection 2.12: Relationship to Malaysia and other refugee groups in this
Rohingya in our survey are not isolated from the broader Malaysian population. About 40%
interact with Malaysians often or every day, while only about 25% report never interacting
with locals. However, Rohingya working in construction rarely interact with refugees and
asylum seekers from other populations. More than 75% reported never interacting with
other (non-Rohingya) refugees. This, along with the Malay language skills described in
Subsection 2.5, suggest that the Rohingya are fairly well integrated into Malaysian society
they are not an isolated, inward focused migrant community but they are a community
unto themselves. There is no broader refugee community into which they fit, as they have
almost no connection to other refugees.
Respondents generally have a positive opinion of Malaysia. About 75% say they feel at home
in Malaysia and more than half are optimistic about life in Malaysia. In fact, about 12.5% of
respondents mentioned their love for Malaysia unprompted. Almost 90% of respondents say
that Malaysians trust them to do a good job at work.
Although many respondents indicated that they would like to be resettled abroad, a
significant amount expressed that they did not want to leave Malaysia. For example, one
respondent told us the following:
Duduk di Malaysia memang sesuai dengan saya. Alhamdulillah, memang cukup
dengan saya. Kalau boleh, saya tak nak pergi tempat lain. Malaysia sudah mencukupi
untuk saya.
(Living in Malaysia suits me very well. Alhamdulillah (Praise God), it’s enough for me.
If possible, I do not want to go anywhere else. Malaysia is enough for me.)
It is also interesting but unsurprising to note that most respondents tied their happiness in
Malaysia to their jobs and employers. Many told the research team that they were happy as
long as they had jobs that paid on time, could eat, and were safe from violence.
Hidup saya, kita dah besar di Malaysia, saya nampak hidup saya memang,
Alhamdulillah. Saya kerja dapat gaji cantik, hidup mewah, boleh jugaklah. Tak jadi
kaya, tapi tak pernah hutang lagi. Boss bayar kita pun OK, kita pun OK.
(My life since I grew up in Malaysia I find my life satisfactory, Alhamdulillah
(Praise God). I work and get a good salary, my life is good, and all is fine. I’m not rich,
but I’m not in debt either. My boss pays me OK, so I am OK.)
Subsection 2.13: Security concerns police bribes, workplace injuries and
violence, violence with locals, and human trafficking
As mentioned in Subsection 2.11, most respondents agreed that they and their families feel
safe in Malaysia. However, Rohingya do face some security issues. In the absence of a
comprehensive legal and domestic framework, asylum-seekers and refugees are at risk of
arrest, prosecution, detention, deportation, refoulement, abuse, exploitation, and other
violations of rights. One such example is harassment by the Malaysian police. Some police
will not bother them and will even help them, but others treat them as illegal immigrants.
Rohingya often have to bribe the officer, and in some cases are sent to jail.
In our data, only a quarter of respondents had never been stopped by the police, and the
average respondent had been stopped nearly five times. More than a quarter had been sent
to jail at least once, and nearly half had paid a bribe at least once. The median bribe was
RM200. Among those who have paid bribes, the median total paid out over their time in
Malaysia was about RM450. A community leader from the focus group explained the
dynamics with law enforcement well:
Kalau kena dengan polis, bayar RM 50, dia minta tolong kalau boleh tolong. Kadang-
kadang, boleh. Kadang-kadang, tak boleh. Bawa balai.
(If the police catch you, you pay him RM 50. He will ask and help if he can help.
Sometimes, he can help (and let you go). Sometimes, he cannot. Then he takes you to
police station.)
Another community leader described the repurcussions of not being able to pay bribes:
Kalau masuk balai, RM 300 boleh lepas. Kalau mahkamah, mesti lebih dari itu. RM
450 hingga RM 600. Kalau bayar tak ikut time, denda lagi tinggi. Lagi satu, kalau
masuk lokap. Duduk dalam lokap satu jam. Habis satu jam, bayaran sudah buat,
baru dia bagi keluar. Macam itu. Saya itu macam. Saya selalu balik Kajang. Dari
Kajang, selalu, budak-budak saya selalu keluar dari mahkamah Kajang, mahkamah,
balai. Itu balai polis Kajang. Sana selalu kacau. Sana selalu motor, kereta, selalu kena
punya. Itulah. Kalau bayar ikut time, boleh keluar. Bayar lambat, tak ada duit, lewat,
bayar lebih. Kalau mahkamah, lagi banyak.
(If I am arrested, I have to pay RM 300 to be let out. If it is with the court, I have to
pay more than that, between RM 450 to RM 600. If I pay late, I’ll be given a higher
fine. If I am arrested. I have to stay for one hour. After that, if I make payments, they
will let me go. I always travel back to Kajang. My boys are always travelling back and
forth from the Kajang Court and to the Kajang police station. We are always being
targeted there because of driving or riding without license. If you pay on time, you are
free to go. If you are late and you have no money, be prepared to pay more.)
According to a 2005 Attorney General Circular, those registered with UNHCR at the time of
arrest should not be prosecuted for an immigration-related offence. Be that as it may, some
registered individuals are still prosecuted for immigration offences and also criminal
offences, including working witout permission. Furthermore, upon completion of their
sentence in person, they are often transferred to immigration detention centers. A refugee’s
chances of getting jailed or deported depends heavily on the whims of the particular police
or law enforcement officer that they meet, as articulated by a community leader:
Mana-mana kita jalan, motor tak ada lesen, bawa pergi sana. Kalau polis ada bagi
roadblockkah, apakah, kenalah. Kalau diorang mahu duit, bayar. Okey, lepas. Kalau
tak bayar, dia bagi saman. Kadang-kadang, kalau okey punya, baik punya orang, dia
minta kita bagi dia duit minum kopi bagi lepas. Kadang-kadang, tak lepas. Naik balai.
Motor tahan, mahkamah bayar. Baru lepas.
(Wherever we go, we ride the motorcycle without license. If there is a roadblock,
you’ll get stopped. If they want money, just pay them up. If they are okay, you’ll
escape. If not, you’ll get a fine. Some are very understanding, and if you gave them
enough, they’ll let you go. If not, to the station you’ll go. Your motor will get
confiscated, you have to pay up to the court. And then, you’ll be free.)
One of the main themes that emerged during the focus group, which was then repeatedly
echoed through all the surveys was the problem of workplace injuries and the lack of
substantial health and life insurance policies. The word “jatuh (fall) was mentioned 8 times
throughout the 2-hour long focus group. One of the community leaders told us the following
story about a man in the community, Mr. Osman
…most of the time, let’s say, I have no work permit. I only have a UNHCR card. I fall
from a building, I lose my life. I don’t have insurance. Let’s say, our brother, Mr.
Osman. In 2005, he fell from a tall building in Masjid India. After two months, his wife
asked for his pay from one of his supervisors. We need money, more than RM 40,000
for the hospital bills. Before recovery, he needs money, I called the guy (boss) and he
said no. I said, “I already sue your boss.” But the law firm checked the insurance
allocation of the company and saw that a small amount of money is allotted for
insurance. Until today, no results because you fell from the building and you only have
your UNHCR card. You have no insurance, no life insurance.
The responses of employers when workplace accidents happen also varies greatly some
are very accommodating and foot a portion (or all) of the hospital bills, but some, like the
employers described below, turn a blind eye:
Kadang-kadang, kita kerja ada jatuhlah. Itu hari, saya ada cousin sudah mati. Kalau
itu, kadang-kadang bos, kalau dia ada anak, dia bagi sikit duit makan, untuk sewa
rumah. Kadang-kadang, diorang langsung tak tanya khabar, macam mana pun tak
tanya. Itu macam pun ada.
(Sometimes, accidents are bound to happen. My cousin died due to an accident when
working. If the worker has children, the boss will give some money to buy food or pay
rent. Some don’t even care.)
Name changed to protect the individual’s anonymity.
A large number of survey respondents also reported long-term injuries from working as a
manual laborer. One respondent told us the following story, which was repeated by other
respondents in various permutations throughout the data collection process: “I have injured
my back at work. Sometimes, I carry very big things. And my backbone is sometimes painful.”
Aside from back injuries, respondents also reported hand injuries from dealing with
machinery and lifting heavy objects.
Interestingly, all 6 focus group participants perceived that Bangladeshi and Indonesian
migrant workers were paid slightly less than the Rohingya. It is difficult to verify this directly
from the available data collected by the Malaysian government’s Construction Industry
Development Board (CIDB), but this issue is explored later in Subsection 3.1. One community
leader very eloquently described a possible reason for the pay differential between the
Rohingyas and other migrant workers in the construction industry:
Kalau orang ada UN card, kalau ada diorang mana-mana kerja pun, diorang tauke
tak ada tanggung apa-apa. Gaji sikit tinggi pun, diorang senang kerja. Tak payah
kalau jatuh bangunan, mati apa, dia tak perlu buat apa. Kalau ada passport, ada
permit, diorang hantar Bangladesh, kalau ada apa-apa bayar, berapa kubur, apa
semua dia tanggung. Itu pasal diorang, ini macam sahaja. Senang punya kerja
sekarang. Tauke pun orang senang kerja sahaja. Susah pun diorang tak mahu juga.
Kalau ada passport diorang banyak kerja.
(If for those with UN cards, no matter where they work, the employers have no
responsibility over the workers. Even if the pay is higher, their responsibility is lesser. If
we were to have an accident, let’s say falling from a building or death, he doesn’t
assume responsibility. If for those with UN cards, no matter where they work, the
employers have no responsibility over the workers. Even if the pay is higher, they have
less responsibility. If we were to have an accident, let’s say falling from a building or
death, he (the boss) doesn’t assume responsibility. But for those with passports, they
have permits, so they have to repatriate the body and handle payments for the grave
and such. All is handled by the employer. For us its easier, we work and the employer
benefits. If there were any problems the employers don’t have a headache. It’s easy.
For those with passports they (the bosses) have to handle a lot of things.)
Another security issue is workplace violence. A small number of respondents mentioned
abuse at the workplace, but were reluctant to elaborate further. One respondent mentioned
to us that “Boss selalu marah-marah saya, tending-tendang saya (My boss gets angry with
me a lot and kicks me).” Most respondents have had experiences with late salary payments,
which is discussed in Subsection 3.8. This being said, many respondents expressed fondness,
respect, and appreciation for their employers, as the following excerpt shows:
Boss saya tak pernah bayar lambat. Kadang kadang sebelum sampai hujung bulan,
bila saya mintak, dia bagi saya duit. Dia selalu bagi saya minum kopi, bagi 50 ringgit.
Kadang-kadang dia datang tengok kita kerja kuat, dia bagi minum kopi, bagi duit.
Saya suka kerja sebab saya nak cari duit, nak makan. Kalau kita tak kerja, kita tak
duit, tak suka. Tak boleh makan…. Saya belajar semua di construction. Boss saya
nampak saya, macam anak dia. Saya boleh belajar buat plan jugak. Dulu saya kerja
dengan dia, badan kecil. Sekarang, badan sudah besar, sihat. Boss saya kata, you
macam anak saya. You dah kerja lama dengan saya.
(My boss has never paid me late. Sometimes, even before the end of the month, when
I ask, he gives me money. He often gives me RM 50 for coffee money. Sometimes
when he sees me work hard, he feeds me coffee and gives me cash. I like to work
because I am looking for money to eat. If I don’t work, I won’t have money, so I don’t
like that. Because I can’t eat…I’ve learned so much at construction. My boss sees me
as his son. I have learned how to read construction plans. When I first started working
for him, I was small and scrawny. Now, I am big and healthy. My boss told me that I
am like his son because I’ve worked with him for so long.)
While the survey did not specifically mention street violence, a number of respondents used
the open-ended questions to volunteer that they’d faced street violence and robbery. The
following is a recollection from a man describing encounters that he and his uncle have had:
Saya mahu keluar rumah beli barang, bila orang India nampak saya keluar, dia cakap,
orang apa? Saya cakap, Rohingya. Dia tanya saya, ada wang tak? Saya cakap tak
ada, saya tak ada wang, saya pun cari makan. Dia cakap saya tak kira, saya nak
wang. Dia tunjuk saya pisau, ada ramai orang. Dia panggil kawan-kawan dia. Lepas
itu saya bagi dia duit dan telefon. Semua duit yang saya ada dia ambil, bag pun
ambil. Abang saya sudah 5 ribu kena angkat. Dia pergi complain sama balai. Polis tak
buat apa. Satu lagi kali, abang saya kena. Dia naik teksi India, dia mahu keluar. Tapi
dia bawak terus masuk hutan. Lepas itu orang teksi tunjuk parang, mintak duit. Jadi
abang saya bagi semua duit.
(Whenever I go out to buy stuff, when the Indians
see me leave, they ask me: where
are you from? I told them that I am a Rohingya person. They ask me: do you have
money? I said no, I don’t have money, I’m trying to make a living here. They say that
they don’t care, and that they want money from me. They show me a knife and a lot
of them are around. They call their friends. After that, I give them my money and my
telephone. All the money I have, they take. They took my bag, too. My brother lost
5000 in cash. He went to lodge a police complaint but the police didn’t do anything.)
When the idea of banking and direct deposit was mentioned, as reported in Subsection 2.7,
some suggested this would be a way to keep their money safe from these gangs while
traveling to work. Unfortunately, respondents were generally uncertain why they were being
targeted if they were being specifically targeted at all.
Finally, we also noticed throughout the interviews that the respondents would speak of
“agents” – individuals who were involved in getting them out of Myanmar, as well as freeing
them from jail or detention centers (for a large fee). One man told us that he had to pay RM
1,200 once to be released from jail. The interviewer then asked who he paid the money to
was it the police? His answer was that, “No, it wasn’t. I met him inside the jail, he came to
visit. He’s not a police or lawyer. The man came to us and talked to us, and after that, he
managed to contact our brothers to pay and get us out of jail.” A community leader told us
about his experience utilizing an “agent”:
Respondents often discuss interactions with “Indians”, but it is not always clear to whom they refer. This
assessment is presumably made on appearance, so these individuals may be local or migrant workers from
India or migrants from Bangladesh, or even Malays of a Desi appearance.
Enam kali saya kena tangkap. Dalam enam kali itu, dua kali dia hantar dekat
sempadan Myanmar dengan Thailand. Nama tempat, Khawthaung. Kita ambil ejen,
masuk balik Malaysia. Sudah enam kali. Kali keempat, dia hantar dekat Rantau
Panjang. Goloklah. DIa hantar sana. Saya ambil ejen, masuk balik Malaysia.
(I got arrested six times. In those six times, twice I was sent to Khawthaung, a place
near the Myanmar-Thailand border. I hired an agent and came back in. The fourth
time, they sent me back via Rantau Panjang, Golok. I hired an agent and came back
Based on the paragraph aforementioned, these is a possibility that the “agents” referred to
could potentially be smugllers/traffickers. Additionally, it appears that most Rohingya
refugees will transit in Thailand on their way to Malaysia from Myanmar. Sometimes, they
stay for long periods of times in Thailand (2-3 years). One respondent told us that he did not
learn how to be a construction worker in Malaysia because he learned all the skills he
needed in Thailand when he spent 3 years there. Our understanding is that since many
human traffickers charge large fees for their services (sometimes upwards of RM 20,000),
they make Rohingya refugees work in transit to Malaysia to pay off their debts.
Section 3: What does construction work look like for the Rohingya?
Subsection 3.1: An overview of the construction industry in Malaysia
In 2017, the construction industry contributed to 4.6% (approximately RM 54 billion) of the
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which represented an increase of 6.7% from the previous
The construction industry is classified into four sectors:
Residential buildings the construction of houses and condominiums.
Non-residential buildings the construction of all buildings which are not
residential (including commercial and industrial buildings).
Civil engineering the construction of public infrastructure such as bridges,
highways, and roads.
Special trade projects - projects which constitute a part, but not the entirety,
of a construction project. Some examples are plumbing, lighting and electrical
wiring, and bricklaying.
The key contributors to the growth in construction were civil engineering and specialized
construction activities nationwide.
The government regulatory board for the construction industry in Malaysia is the
Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). CIDB’s official vision is “to be an esteemed
organization that delivers construction excellence in Malaysia” and its mission is “to
regulate, develop, and facilitate the construction industry by inculcating professionalism in
delivering quality, productive and sustainable built environment.” In practicality, it regulates
workplace safety at construction sites and issues a card to all construction personnel called
“Kad Hijau CIDB” (henceforth referred to as “the CIDB card”). All construction workers who
work on a site are required to have a CIDB card, which can be obtained after a RM 50 fee
Data obtained from the Department of Statistics Malaysia:
CIDB Malaysia’s Construction Industries Review (January 15, 2018):
and a one-day induction course on Health and Safety.
The CIDB card automatically confers
its holders a special insurance which insures them against death and workplace injuries.
CIDB also conducts regular safety checks at construction sites.
CIDB and refugee construction workers have a complicated relationship, as detailed below.
In particular, since refugees are not legally allowed to work in Malaysia, they also do not
qualify for CIDB cards, which means that they are not insured and often have to run away or
not show up for work during CIDB safety checks. This causes them a great amount of
distress, as well as differentiates them from other migrant workers in a very tangible way.
According to 2016 data from CIDB, a total of 767,563 construction personnel was registered
in 2016 613,843 (approximately 80%) were locals and 153,720 (approximately 20%) were
foreign workers.
It is impossible to know how many Rohingya refugee construction
workers actually work on construction sites across the country due to the legality issues
mentioned earlier and gaps in refugee employment data
. The CIDB data would also
exclude migrant workers from abroad who have overstayed their work permits and are no
longer legal. However, the upside is that there are no reasons to believe that the number of
local workers who are reported in the data is incorrect since Malaysians do not face the
same employment restrictions are foreigners do. CIDB also reports that the average daily
wage rates for local skilled construction workers (excluding foreign workers and refugees,
who are missing from official data) are highly varied. Plumbers who specialize in reticulation
and steel structure fabricators earned the most across all categories, with a daily wage of
RM 117.09 per day and RM 114.91, respectively.
For detailed wage data, please refer to
Table 2.
Although it is difficult to fit Rohingya workers into this framework for wages, given that it is
hard to compare the average respondent that we interviewed to a “skilled” versus “semi-
skilled” person in the CIDB database, we can try and compare daily wage ranges. The daily
wage range in the CIDB data for the skilled category in 2016 is RM 68.83/day to RM
117.09/day, while the range for the semi-skilled category is RM 83.71/day to
RM 110.96/day. On the other hand, the 25th percentile for Rohingya wages was RM48, while
the 75th percentile was RM60. Thus, even high earning Rohingya workers, who are likely
fairly skilled, make less than the lowest compensated local workers.
Although UNHCR Malaysia keeps a detailed record of the occupations reported at time of registration, the
data excludes those who are still in the queue for registration.
Worker Category
RM per day
2015 2016
2015 2016
General Construction Worker
- Buildng
64.69 68.83
- -
94.86 98.66
79.62 84.30
99.07 102.85
78.90 83.71
Carpenter Formwork
104.71 105.89
86.80 90.20
96.80 100.62
75.22 79.16
106.97 110.19
88.41 92.59
Carpenter Joinery
112.01 114.06
91.39 95.95
Steel Structure Fabricator
111.73 114.91
95.26 98.81
General Welder
107.43 109.94
92.36 95.50
Plumber Building &
104.61 107.74
83.59 87.12
Plumber Reticulation
112.84 117.09
97.89 102.05
Building Wiring Installer
- -
107.70 110.96
Electrical Wireman PW2
(RM Monthly)
2,412.37 2.454.59
- -
Electrical Wireman PW4
(RM Monthly)
3,166.32 3,174.45
- -
Scaffolder Prefabricated
100.27 102.68
82.47 86.13
Scaffolder Tubular
101.09 104.82
81.61 85.93
102.51 104.89
85.16 89.13
107.63 112.40
86.83 91.90
Painter Building
94.82 97.95
78.87 82.24
General Construction Worker
- Civil
79.36 83.04
- -
Table 2: Average Daily Wage Rates for Local Construction Workers as per CIDB Data
Subsection 3.2: Other employment
Many respondents had worked in other fields as well. About 10% had worked in cleaning,
about 10% had worked in landscaping, and about 10% had done restaurant work,
respectively. About 10% had worked in some other job.
It’s important to note that the Rohingya don’t have any historical connection to
construction. Most of our respondents worked in the agricultural industry as small-time
farmers or fishermen in Myanmar and never had any experience as construction workers in
any fields of specialization. Indeed, many expressed concerns about the danger and risk of
injury that come with construction work at least as the Rohingya currently experience it:
I prefer to work as farmer back in Myanmar because it is my country and I have the
skill to do that job. For my construction job, I fear the danger of falling
. I also fear
the police but if they come, I will run and escape.
The following individual, when asked what other skills he would like to learn to advance in
his career, said:
I’d like to learn how to repair cars. I want to work in a garage.
Many respondents expressed the need to transition to other jobs that were perceived as
“easier”. Additionally, many also told us that they avoided work in factories or
manufacturing because they were illiterate and were worried about handling heavy
machinery with instructions. One community leader told us during the focus group that
Selalu, kilang kerja, mesin apapun kena baca tengok. Kitorang kadang-kadang, baca
(Working at a factory, they have to read the instructions before handling any
machinery. But what to do, most of us are illiterate.)
One man told us, in very clear terms, that he does not like construction work:
Saya tak suka kerja construction. Nombor satu, kalau kita jatuh, kita tak ada
insurance. Nombor dua, kalau boss lari, kita tak dapat apa-apa.
(I don’t like construction work. First of all, if we fall, we don’t have insurance.
Secondly, if the boss runs away and doesn’t pay us, we don’t get anything.)
Notably, most of the compaints about construction work relate to issues that can be avoided
in the formal labor market unsafe working conditions, disappearing employers, etc. This
being said, many also expressed satisfaction and enjoyment in their jobs. One told us about
the importance of on-the-job training:
Saya suka kerja construction sebab saya boleh belajar. Saya tak suka kerja restoran
sebab tak untung punya, tak ada belajar. Belajar baru untung.
(I like construction work because I can learn. I don’t like working in a restaurant
because I don’t make money from it because I don’t learn (new skills). If you learn
more skills, you can make more money.)
The opportunity to accumulate skills through working is a sentiment that was echoed by
many other respondents:
Saya suka kerja construction sebab lagi lama saya kerja, saya lagi pandai. Lepas itu
saya boleh kerja sendiri.
(I like construction work because the longer I work, the more skilled I become. Then, I
can work on my own.)
It’s important to note that when the Rohingya speak of “falling”, they don’t only mean literal falling from a
building or a high place (though this happens quite a lot), but also workplace injuries in general.
The pace of work also seemed very reasonable for many:
Saya memang suka kerja construction. Sebab kerja itu sesuai dengan saya, saya
selesa untuk datang kerja. Saya boleh buat semua kerja, saya senang hati.
(I really like construction work. Because I think the work fits me, and I feel happy to
come to work. I can do everything at work, and I feel good about it.)
Many respondents expressed pride in their work and careers. One community leader during
the focus group introduced himself by stating that “You know the Twin Towers? I built those.
I built all the glass in the Twin Towers.” One respondent said, I like construction because it is
my hobby. Since I’m young, I want to build house. I can build a whole house. I can do
everything but electricity and wiring. Just build, not electricity.” Another respondent told us
that he liked working in construction because of the high demand from employers in the
Saya suka kerja di kongsi-kong sebab boss tak bagi saya banyak kerja. Lain kerja,
kena kerja kuat. Saya suka kerja kongsi-kong sebab setiap hari pun ada kerja, boleh
kerja. Lain kerja, 20 hari pun tak dapat kerja. Tak boleh tahan.
(I like construction work because my boss doesn’t give me too much to do. For other
jobs, you have to work very hard. I like construction work because there is stuff to do
every day, and I can work every day. For other jobs, sometimes you can’t even get 20
days’ worth of work. I cannot take that.)
Finally, a significant number of respondents also had a very practical reason for preferring
construction work over others:
Saya suka construction sebab saya tak pandai kerja lain.
(I like construction work because I don’t know how to do any other job.)
Subsection 3.3: Nature of the job and types of specialization
When asked about the nature of the job, many respondents told us that the work is difficult
there were many complaints of heat and the strenuous physical requirements of the job.
When I was working, I didn’t feel well because it was very hot.
However, many respondents also pointed out that other jobs that refugees do are also
I think construction is better job than grass cutting because of the mosquito bites and
snake bites.
From the focus group, we were able to understand that the construction industry is a highly-
skilled, hierarchical industry with many distinct fields of specialization. Workers generally
choose one of two fields of specialization and progress within the field of specialization. The
following “career goals” emerged as a result of our interviews
Learn how to do electrical wiring to obtain a higher pay
Learn how to read construction site plans
Accumulate enough skills to either work independently as a freelance contractor, or
become a subcontractor under a large construction company
The vertical structure i.e. the chain of command in this industry is depicted in Figure 6. A
construction project is owned by a construction company. The construction company hires a
contractor, who is typically Malaysian. The Malaysian contractor then contracts out portions
of the project to sub-contractors who specialize in particular fields. More than half of our
focus group participants, have, in fact, worked as a sub-contractor before.
Figure 6: Vertical structure of power in the construction industr
In the construction industry, as previously noted, there is a lot of horizontal differentiation in
skills. This is evident in Table 2 and Figure 7. Some popular fields of specialization amongst
our respondents include glasswork, wiring, plumbing, plaster, bricklaying, steelwork, and
Saya pandai buat plaster, pasang pintu, ikat batu, buang-buang sampah, pasang
paip. Kalau boss bagi saya belajar, saya nak belajar wiring.
(I can do plaster, install doors, lay bricks, help throw trash out, and do plumbing. But
if the boss lets me learn, I want to learn wiring.)
Figure 7: Horizontal differentiation in the construction industry
This is a fact that can also be observed in the CIDB data in Table 2 individuals who are specialized and
experienced in wiring can make more than RM3,000 a month.
The majority (roughly two-thirds) of our respondents worked as personnel on construction
sites. The rest either worked independently, taking small residential jobs, or worked for an
independent contractor on small residential and commercial projects.
Additionally, Rohingya construction workers only work on construction sites that do not
check for CIDB cards. This tends to mean that their working conditions are more dangerous,
since the CIDB typically regulates and enforces workplace safety.
Boss cakap, kalau tak ada passport, tak ada CIDB card, tak boleh kerja. Saya cakap
macam mana, saya tak ada itu semua. Boss cakap, tak apa, nanti kerja lama-lama
saya cari untuk kamu.
(My boss said if you don’t have a passport, if you don’t have a CIDB card, you cannot
work. I said but I don’t have any of those. Boss said that’s okay, you work first and
slowly, I will get those documents for you.)
Subsection 3.4: Obtaining construction jobs through social networks
In our survey, there was a question about how the respondents obtained their first
construction job. All of the answers we received stated that the respondents got their first
jobs through social networks, be it through family members already here in Malaysia or
Rohingya friends. The following are three excerpts from three different individuals. Their
stories were commonly observed in the data.
Since I arrived here, I don’t have any relatives here. But at the bus stop, I met one
friend. He helped me get a job with construction under a Chinese boss.
In Myanmar, I worked as fisherman and woodcutter. My brother taught me
construction when I came to Malaysia. At that time, my salary was small.
First, I worked in KL but not in construction. Then my friend calls me, say that his boss
needs more workers. So, I go.
Subsection 3.5: Career progression
Rohingya working in construction focus on career advancement (for them, this practically
means increases in wages over time), specifically through specialization.
Now, I’m doing everything – plaster, ceiling, tiles. If I do my job well, I can get paid
more. Getting paid to do tiles also gets me paid more.
This was also echoed by a community leader in the focus group:
Pay in the construction industry starts from RM 50 per day for 8 hours of work.
Promotion is based on evaluation of the bosses. For workers in Malaysia, they see for
three months. Then the salaries go up after six months, or after one year. Some
bosses are very kind. Saying that they trust the workers, and salary goes up.
However, some are uncertain that they can advance. When asked whether they can earn a
higher salary by working hard, almost half agreed, but almost a third disagreed.
I worked with a Chinese boss for 6 years, but he didn’t increase my salary. So, I quit.
Many respondents viewed the “ultimate goal” as getting a job as a wireman.
Kalau nak katakan, dalam hidup saya, yang pernah buat, tak seberapa lengkap. Saya
nak sambung balik. Dalam wiring, ada banyak benda-benda lain yang saya boleh
buat. Saya nak belajar lebih.
(Actually, in my life, everything I’ve done has been incomplete. I would like to learn
more. I can’t do very much wiring. I’d like to learn more.)
Some respondents pointed out that the reason why it was hard to advance in their careers is
that they have to change worksites after each project is done, which often means that they
must also change employers and start from scratch at the next construction site.
Saya memang nak kerja, tapi tak boleh. Sebab kita tak ada dokumen yang lengkap.
Boss kita pun takut, dia tak boleh terima. Kalau dah berapa tahun dah siap kerja, dia
nak pindah tempat lain. Tapi dia tak boleh bawa kita, sebab kita tak ada dokumen.
Sebab itu kena tukar-tukar boss. Jadi, macam ini. Saya buat kerja, habis lepas kerja,
saya nak masuk balik. Boss kata tau boleh, sebab you tak ada dokumen yang
lengkap. Saya tak boleh bawak. Jadi, saya tak boleh sambung balik kerja. Kena tukar
yang lain, start balik. Pengalaman ini rugi lah, sebab kena start balik. Dapat kerja
baru pun, kena tunggu lagi.
(I really want to work, but I can’t. Because I don’t have complete legal documents. My
boss is also scared and he can’t accept it. So, once I’ve worked for a couple of years,
he wants to move to another place. But he can’t take me with him because I don’t
have documents. So, I have to keep on changing bosses. This is what happens. I work,
after I’m done work, I want to work some more (at the new project). But the boss says
I can’t, because I don’t have complete legal documents. I can’t bring them. So, I can’t
work again. Then, I have to change to another job and start again. All the experience I
have goes to waste because I have to start again. Even if I start a new job, I have to
wait for it to start.)
Subsection 3.6: Effect of current regulation and workplace inspections
The construction sites that employ Rohingya construction workers are creative when it
comes to working around the legal system. The following is a story that was told to us by an
experienced worker, and one that we heard a number of times throughout the data
collection process.
All the workers, we collect 60 from each, and pay our boss. Then, boss pay that money
to the police, for not to come to our place. RM 60 per month.
Many employers have some sort of arrangement with the police and CIDB officials who
come and conduct workplace safety and regulatory compliance checks. For example, a
community leader told us in the focus group discussion:
Kadang-kadang, bos pun ada settle dengan polis. Kadang-kadang ada bos cerita.
Kami tak tahu apa cerita. Polis tak kacaulah itu. Kadang-kadang, diorang terus kacau
itu dalam. Kita buat kerja. Itu macamlah. Sekarang, satu, lesen. Kita tak pakai lesen
bila bawa motor kalau mahu pergi kerja jauh, kena tangkap. Sekarang, pakai UNHCR
kad, dia tak bagi saman. Terus masuk balai. Kalau bayar, kena RM 300 terus. Lepas
bayar, baru boleh lepas. Kalau tak ada RM 300 tak boleh lepas. Dia tak bagi saman.
Lain, passport, IC, dia bagi sama. Kadang-kadang, passport pun dia tak bagi. Hari itu,
saya ada kena. Bulan satu. Dia terus bawa balai. Bayar RM 300 baru saya boleh
pergi. Itu macam. Kalau masuk balai, RM 300 boleh lepas. Kalau mahkamah, mesti
lebih dari itu. RM 450 hingga RM 600. Kalau bayar tak ikut time, denda lagi tinggi.
Lagi satu, kalau masuk lokap. Duduk dalam lokap satu jam. Habis satu jam, bayaran
sudah buat, baru dia bagi keluar. Macam itu. Saya itu macam. Saya selalu balik
Kajang. Dari Kajang, selalu, budak-budak saya selalu keluar dari mahkamah Kajang,
mahkamah, balai. Itu balai polis Kajang. Sana selalu kacau. Sana selalu motor, kereta,
selalu kena punya. Itulah. Kalau bayar ikut time, boleh keluar. Bayar lambat, tak ada
duit, lewat, bayar lebih. Kalau mahkamah, lagi banyak.
(Sometimes, our employers will talk to the police. We do not know what they talk
about but the police will not disturb us. Sometimes, they’ll disturb the people inside
(the construction site). We do our work. Another reason is because of (driving) license.
We do not have license. So, when we are travelling to work, we’ll get caught. Now,
with our UNHCR cards, they don’t fine us. We’ll be taken straight to the station. We
have to pay RM 300. If we pay, we can leave. If not, no. It is the same with those with
passports and ICs. Sometimes, even thouse with passports will get arrested too. The
other day, I got caught. They took me to the station. I paid RM 300 and then I was
allowed to leave. If I am arrested, I have to pay RM 300 to be let out. If it is with the
court, I have to pay more than that, between RM 450 to RM 600. If I pay late, I’ll be
given a higher fine. If I am arrested. I have to stay for one hour. After that, if I make
payments, they will let me go. I always travel back to Kajang. My boys are always
travelling back and forth from the Kajang Court and to the Kajang police station. We
are always being targeted there because of driving or riding without license. If you
pay on time, you are free to go. If you are late and you have no money, be prepared
to pay more.)
The respondents’ fear of law enforcement in their daily lives extended to the fear of being
caught at their workplace. One theme that emerged throughout the study was the
tumultuous relationship between refugee construction workers and CIDB. The workers
seemed to live in fear of being caught all the time, be it on the construction site or not. For
example. when we specifically asked about CIDB arrests on the construction site, they often
also told us stories about other times that they were arrested.
Kena tangkap masa di construction site pun ada (dengan CIDB). Kena tangkap di jalan
pun ada. Kalau pergi dekat mana-mana bus stopkah, pi dekat tempat, ada. Enam
(I have been caught at the construction site (by CIDB). I have been arrested in the
middle of the road. Wherever I go, there will be people getting arrested. I got arrested
six times.)
Many also told us that whenever the CIDB came to check their construction sites, they would
run away, some into the jungle or wilderness for hours, even nights at a time.
When there is a CIDB inspection we run away. Very shameful. We feel very shy that
we have to run away. They know our feeling. The construction workers know. We
have no CIDB card and it looks like we are thieves.
Sometimes, the police also come to the construction site to conduct randomly-timed checks
on the construction workers. They usually check for documentation and arrest all workers
with no passports (which includes the Rohingya).
Polis kadang-kadang datang, kadang-kadang tak. Kadang-kadang, dia tunggu bila
orang keluar, baru dia masuk. Dia tunggu malam. Malam polis masuk. Semua cari
passport. Kalau tak ada passport, diorang minta duitlah. Kadang-kadang diorang
tunggu luar. Bila orang nak keluar itu, kena tangkap.
(Sometimes the police will come. Sometimes, no. They’ll wait for us to leave or when it
is night to arrest us. At night, the police will come. They’ll find those without
passports. They will wait until those people are leaving to arrest them.)
In summary, problems with CIDB on the construction site are very real to Rohingya
construction workers, and a clear impediment to their productivity, mental health, and
stress levels at work.
Kadang-kadang itu depan gate ada check itu CIDB. Siapa yang tak ada CIDB, dia tak
kasi masuk, suruh keluar. Hari ini balik. Kalau ada itu kad memang senanglah kami
mana pergi masuk kerja punya tempat ada gate, masuk itu tunjuk. Tak payah tanya
apa-apa. Ambil kad CIDB tunjuk. Diorang pun okey sebab ini orang kerja punya. Dia
kurang suspect. Kalau biasa nampak, dia tak mintak check passport. Kad CIDB, kalau
tunjuk dia okey. Kalau ada itu kad memang senanglah kami mana pergi masuk kerja
punya tempat ada gate, masuk itu tunjuk. Tak payah tanya apa-apa. Ambil kad CIDB
tunjuk. Diorang pun okey sebab ini orang kerja punya. Dia kurang suspect. Kalau
biasa nampak, dia tak mintak check passport. Kad CIDB, kalau tunjuk dia okey. Itu
kalau kerja construction, kad CIDB tak ada, kita takutlah.
(Sometimes, they do a check at the gate. Those with the CIDB card can enter the rest
have to leave and go home. If we had the card it would be easy for us to enter the site
gate since we can show our card to enter. No questions asked. We just need to show
the CIDB card. They will be okay since that is the job requirement. They will look at us
less suspiciously. If they are used to seeing us they don’t ask us for passport and CIDB.
But if we can show them they will be okay. If we work construction and we have no
CIDB card, we are afraid.)
Subsection 3.7: Workplace Injuries
As mentioned in Subsection 2.12, on the job injuries are a serious concern for Rohingya
working in construction. Construction is dangerous work in any setting, and, due to their lack
of CIDB cards, the Rohingya specifically work on sites that are noncompliant with
government regulations, possibly including safety regulations as well. This being said, some
construction sites still observe safety regulations despite the fact that they illegally hire
refugee workers.
Saya tak pernah jatuh sebab pakai harness sebelum kerja.
(I have never fallen because I wear a harness before I work.)
Most respondents had serious concerns regarding the lack of health insurance and were
aware of the fact that had they been given CIDB cards, they would have received workplace
compensation and insurance. The following excerpt was told to us by a community leader.
Kalau kerja contract, kalau dekat situ ada accident apa, ada yang bos bayar sedikit.
Bukan insuranslah. Dia bayar untuk dia makan, untuk dia boleh rawat. Itu sahajalah.
Dia tak bayar insurans. Tak pernah dengar bos bayar insurans. Dia cuma bayar sikit
sahajalah untuk makankah, rawatan sakitkah. Ada kawan, gaji dia seribu, dia ikutlah,
ada yang bagi seribu pun ada. Ada yang langsung tak bayar pun ada juga.
(If an accident happens, the employer will chip in a little bit. He is not paying for
insurance. He pays for our food, our treatment. That’s all. I have never heard of a
construction employer pays for insurance. It depends to him to pay how much. Some
got pay a thousand, some got paid nothing.)
Subsection 3.8: Frequency and issues with payment
About three quarters of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their employers paid
them on time. It seems clear that the average Rohingya in construction is satisfied with the
promptness of their pay. However, there is a substantial minority that are not. More than
half of respondents were paid monthly, while about a quarter were paid weekly, and
another quarter were paid at a different interval, usually biweekly or every 15 days. Very few
were paid daily.
Those who were dissatisfied with late payments from their employers voiced their
frustration quite strongly to us during the interviews.
When I started work, I was not happy. It was very hard work. But I work slowly. Then,
I get paid and I get disappointment because it’s not much. And then I have to wait a
long time for more money, sometimes 2 weeks, sometimes a month.
Additionally, many respondents also reported being cheated by their employers. It’s
important to note that since the Rohingya people are mostly illiterate, it is very easy for
them to be taken advantage of.
I want to say something about my work. When I start working, I tried my best, I did
my work dutifully, do everything that the boss tells me. But when the pay comes, it
doesn’t come on time. Sometimes I earn 5000 but they only give me 1000. So, I want
to get my salary on time.
Some employers also enacted severe punishments for their workers who were late.
Previously, I had a boss that never paid me on time. If I was late 5 minutes, they cut 1
hour from my pay.
Interestingly, one community leader told us during the focus group that the employer
sometimes keeps part of the wages for what is essentially an insurance policy against
workplace injuries and medical care.
Actually, there are some contractors which what they do is, they keep the salary for
one month because they think he will get all the salary and run away. Something like
this. So, he keeps the salary of the person for one month. He doesn’t pay until after
two months. Even after those two months, he will only get one month’s salary. So, the
other things like when he has accidents, something like that, some bosses help and
give medical care.
We also learned that sometimes, when workers are in need, they ask for “advances” or
“loans” from their employers.
Sometimes when my parents get sick or in hospital, they need money. So, I ask money
from my boss, but he doesn’t give to me. It’s difficult. I only ask my boss when my
parents are sick, or else I never ask.
This was also echoed by a community leader in the focus group:
Pinjaman dengan bos pun ada. Pinjaman bagi dekat siapa yang perlu pinjaman. Siapa
yang minta pinjam RM 50, RM 100 dia bagilah. Dia tanggungjawab semualah.
Makanan semua. Bila perlu pekerja, dia bayar sikit berapa dia mintalah. Bagi kepala
yang bayar sama dia. Maknanya, kepala mesti ada modallah. Kadang-kadang, bos
tak ada masa bayar, saya mesti ada sikit modal. Bagi orang bila perlu. Macam itu.
(Some bosses allow us to take loans. But the loans are for those who need it. If you
ask for RM 50, RM 100, you can get it. The employer is responsible for everyone. He
pays for the food, he pays whoever needs money. But, the one who gives out the
money is the head. So, sometimes, the head must have some money saved.
Sometimes, the employer is so busy that he forgets to pay. So, I (the subcontractor)
have to front first.)
However, it is important to note that whether or not the worker can take out a loan varies
greatly between employers:
Ada kadang-kadang, satu bulan lebih pun ada tak bayar. Kadang-kadang, dua bulan
kerja. Gaji tahan, satu bulan sahaja bayar. Kadang-kadang, satu bulan 5 haribulan,
gaji bayar. Ada pinjaman, ada kerja-kerja tengah bulan, ada pinjaman-pinjaman
kecil, dia kasi bagi. Kadang-kadang, lari pun ada. Tiada bayaran, terus lari pun ada.
(Sometimes, they do not pay us for more than a month. Sometimes, even for two
months. They’ll pay us for only a month’s salary. Sometimes, on the fifth of the
month, they’ll send us our salary. We can take loans, small ones. Sometimes, they are
employers who just disappeared without paying us.)
Finally, it is important to note that the amounts of money that are withheld from workers
can be very large. This is particularly true if the worker is a “kepala” (project head) or a sub-
contractor since he would be in charge of paying the workers under him.
Saya tahun 2005, saya pernah ada satu kali, saya tak ambil sub-contract. Saya dapat
upah gaji. Saya kerja sebagai kepala semua pekerja. Saya tahu baca plan. Saya
makan gaji saja. Kita ada enam orang dekat Kuantan. Kerja dengan satu Cina, dia tak
bayar. Dia kata ambil gaji semua sekali bila Raya Cina. Lepas itu, dia lari tak bayar.
RM 19 ribu.
(In 2005, once I did not get any sub-contract work. I was hired. I was the head for all
the workers. I know how to read plans. There were six of us in Kuantan. We worked
with a Chinese contractor. He didn’t pay. He told us that he’ll pay us lump sum before
Chinese New Year. He ran away with RM 19 thousand.)
Subsection 3.9: Income
Rohingya working in construction have a surprisingly high income. The reported average
daily wage is about RM55, and the reported average monthly income was about RM1420.
These wages are quite consistent, too. Half of respondents reported daily wages between
RM48 (25th percentile) and RM60 (75th percentile), and half reported monthly income
between RM1200 (25th percentile) an RM1550 (75th percentile). Part of the reason for these
high wages is that, as informal workers, Rohingya do not receive pension matching or
insurance from their employers. Rohingya workers also do not receive any repatriation
services in the event of their death from a workplace injury. This is discussed in a bit more
detail in Subsection 3.15. These wages are still far below local rates, however.
The quantitative data agree with the qualitative data collected. The following was expressed
to us by a community leader during the focus group:
Newcomers will do projects. Every day get RM 50. Sometimes, if you are skilled in the
work, you have experience, in one month you can get RM 2000, RM 1700, RM 1500.
Figure 8: Daily wage distribution of respondents
Figure 9: Monthly income distribution of respondents
While the narrow range of common wage rates gives us confidence that these reports
represent an accurate account of prevailing wages being quoted to refugee workers, we are
not confident that these stated wages are accurate. Reported monthly income is only
moderately correlated with reported daily wages, and even when daily wages are multiplied
by reported days of work to create a predicted income, as in the figure below, this estimated
income only explains about half of the variation in reported monthly income.
Several factors may explain this. Respondents may have other sources of income, and daily
wages may depend on the number of hours worked, meaning respondents will often base
their answer on their recollection of a “representative” day. If this doesn’t correspond to
their objective average day, monthly income and daily wages may not agree.
However, these factors are unlikely to explain all of the discrepancy. More concerning is that
Rohingya workers often lack basic math skills, so they may not be able to accurately assess
their monthly income. In fact, wages are typically quoted in terms of daily rates, but
payment is typically monthly or biweekly, so computing the sum owed on a paycheck
requires non-trivial multiplication. Employers are almost certainly aware of this, and may
underpay workers relative to their stated daily wage under the assumption that if the wad of
bills looks approximately correct it will be accepted.
Finally, it’s worth noting that wages do not vary greatly by state. Roughly the same prevailing
daily wages are on offer throughout Malaysia, and whatever small differences do exist
between states are too small to be identified by a survey of this size.
Figure 10: Daily wages are only positively correlated with monthly income, but do not agree
Subsection 3.10: Hours of work
Rohingya working in construction work a moderate number of hours per day eight hours is
the median. Respondents rarely worked 12 or more hours a day less than twice a month
on average, though a handful of respondents regularly worked 12+ hour shifts. Respondents
worked 8-11 hours about 19 days a month on average and worked less than 8 hours about 3
days a month. In total, respondents worked an average of 23 days a month.
Subsection 3.11: Amenities or the lack thereof
As informal workers, Rohingya receive few of the benefits accorded to formal employees.
They do not receive pension contribution matching or insurance, and they are not covered
by worker’s compensation or CIDB workplace insurance. They often do receive other cash
amenities, and some respondents reported that their employers would sometimes bring
them food and drink at work. As mentioned in Subsection 3.12, their rent is often covered by
their employer, and travel to work is also often provided as well.
Subsection 3.12: Travel to work
Many Rohingya working in construction live in dormitories on site, a fact reflected in the
quarter of respondents who have no travel expenses whatsoever. As mentioned in
Subsection 2.2, these respondents are often unmarried, so living in worker housing is
acceptable to them. Married respondents often work on residential construction projects
and travel to work. Even for those that travel to work, that travel is often covered by their
employer, so much of the reported expenses about RM130 a month on average is due to
other travel needs such as shopping.
We also noticed that most, if not all, respondents had never taken public transportation.
Anecdotally, the respondents told us that because they are mostly illiterate, looking at maps
and trying to figure out the public transportation system was very intimidating. Hence, most
respondents either walked, biked, or took a taxi (or Grab).
It is also important to note that while housing is usually provided for workers on
construction sites, housing is generally not provided for workers work for small sub-
contractors, or who work on residential jobs. The respondents find this fact inconvenient.
Our workplace is too far for me. It takes me one hour to get there. After we come
back from work, we have to cook, we have to do everything. So, it takes a long time.
Like previous time, we did with the Chinese boss in a big construction site, we can stay
there. Now, I work in kampung on small houses, we cannot stay there.
Subsection 3.13: The dynamics between Rohingya construction workers and
other migrant workers at construction sites
Respondents report that several other demographics frequently work on construction sites
with them. These include Indonesians, Bangladeshis, and Indians, including Malaysian
Indians. When asked how they are treated relative to migrant workers from Bangladesh and
Indonesia, a plurality of respondents is uncertain. Those who do have an opinion generally
believe they are treated the same.
Due to the clear legal differences between a Rohingya worker and a legal migrant worker,
there are some frictions that exist as a result. For example, the Rohingya do not enjoy
repatriation services if they die from a workplace injury, and do not have health insurance or
any sort of workplace compensation, which they realize.
Finally, since Indonesian and Bangladeshi workers typically were not excluded from the
formal education system in their home countries, they were perceived by the Rohingya as
being more skilled than them.
Untuk kerja construction, kena potong besi, kena ikat besi. Tapi itu saya tak pandai,
ini orang Indonesia atau Bangla yang buat. Kita tolong-tolong saja.
(For construction work, I have to work with steel. But I’m not very good at that, only
the Indonesians or the Bangladeshi workers are. I just help a bit.)
Section 4: Recommendations for the future work pilot
The findings above suggest a number of recommendations for any potential work pilot
program. First, construction is an excellent fit for such a program. While most Rohingya do
not have any special interest in construction and construction is not a traditional occupation
for them in Myanmar, it is their most common occupation in Malaysia, and boasts high
wages and opportunities for advancement that are not found in other occupations, as
described in Subsection 3.5. Attempts to run work pilots in lower wage industries will
struggle to retain participants, as they can earn more working informally in construction.
1. Demographics
For a construction work pilot, the easiest participants to attract and retain will be young
unmarried men, or young married men with families abroad. As described in Subsection
3.12, young men living without their families often work on large construction sites, the sort
of job that a large developer partnering with the Malaysian government would be able to
provide. Married men living with their families, by contrast, often do small scale residential
construction. They might require additional training. Additionally, married men living with
their families would require family accommodations or job sites close to their homes. Young
men living alone, by contrast, are more comfortable living in on-site dormitories, which
resolve the travel challenges the Rohingya face.
In terms of location, urban centers with large populations of Rohingya working in
construction represent may ease implementation. As shown in Subsection 2.3, Rohingya in
Penang and Johor have high rates of construction employement, and there are many large
construction projects available to employ them. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor also have
excellent opportunities for construction employment. Fewer Rohingya in those states
currently work in construction, however, so work pilot partners in those areas will need to
be willing to accept unskilled workers. Kelantan has a large contingent of Rohingya
construction workers, but is more rural, so finding a partner company working on a large
construction project would be key.
2. Ensure adequate wages Rohingya in construction already earn good salaries, so
giving them minimum wage would be a salary cut that they cannot be expected to
volunteer for.
A critical issue in any successful work pilot will be sufficient wages. As seen in Subsection 3.1,
the construction industry features wages far in excess of the peninsular minimum wage of
RM1,000 per month, and while the Rohingya currently working informally in this industry are
paid well below the national average for construction work, they are still paid above the
minimum wage regardless of location. Therefore, it is critical that the pilot offer wages
competitive with their current jobsthat the pilot not offer the minimum wage, which will
often represent a 30-40% pay cut. There is a wide range between the median daily rate for
the Rohingya, RM50, and the average national daily rate for local workers, which is about
RM70 for the lowest paying construction jobs; it should not be difficult to set wages within
this range, where construction companies will not have to pay above market wages and
participants will not have to accept a pay cut to join the program.
3. Promote health insurance and jobsite safety.
As shown in Subsection 2.8, many Rohingya working in construction are very concerned
about healthcare and access to insurance. UNHCR-registered persons are offered a 50%
discount off the foreigner rate on medical bills, but many Rohingya still cannot afford these
prices. UNHCR’s REMEDI program offers health insurance to refugees, but its prices are set
to increase due to the high rate of claims. Thus, the work pilot’s provision of health
insurance is a great selling point for potential participants, and this feature should be
advertised during enrollment. Employers could also tap into the existing REMEDI programme
which has been accepted and is fully operation in all government hospitals and endures a
cashless transaction for the refugees requiring admission. The REMEDI policy, as mentioned,
also includes personal accident coverage. Ensuring access to health insurance coverage is
crucial and is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to provide Universal Health
Coverage, leaving no one behind.
No less important is workplace safety. As shown in Subsections 2.12 and 3.7 workplace
injuries are a common concern amongst Rohingya working in construction, and many report
that their employers put little effort into ensuring a safe workplace. This is no surprise, given
that these are informal jobs that, by virtue of hiring Rohingya workers, are offered by
employers not following CIDB rules. Any work pilot will feature formal, legal jobs on jobsites
that follow occupation health and safety standards, so this benefit should also be
communicated to potential participants.
4. Work with police to ensure work ID is accepted.
Previous work pilots have issued work IDs to participants, but these IDs have not always
been accepted by the police. Because the programs have been small, any given officer is
unlikely to have seen the ID before, and will naturally be suspicious. To ensure retention of
participants, it would be helpful to instruct officers in the area to accept the ID card, or at
least add a 2D barcode to the card that can be phone-scanned and link to an official
government webpage validating the card and the program.
5. Promote guaranteed payment on time no missed paychecks.
Another frequent problem Rohingya working in construction face is late or missed
paychecks. As described in Subsection 3.8, employers often claim they have no money on
payday, sometimes for months at a time. Sometimes back wages are eventually paid, but
sometimes the employer disappears without ever paying. This is a common problem with
informal labor, as there is little recourse for workers filing suit requires admitting that one
was working illegally in a Malaysian court, something few refugees want to do. Additionally,
Rohingya workers are usually quoted daily wages, but are usually paid monthly or every 15
days. Given their lack of education, many Rohingya cannot multiply accurately, and may not
be able to check that their paycheck is correct, allowing employers to shortchange them.
Since a work pilot will feature regular, guaranteed paychecks of the correct amount, this
should also be advertised to potential participants.
6. Remittances and banking.
Remittances are an important part of life for most Rohingya. Subsection 2.9 shows that
Rohingya working in construction remit about a quarter of their income, and Subsection 2.6
shows that many of these men have wives and children still living in Myanmar or
Bangladesh, so remittances are not simply a way to help cousins or siblings, they’re the
means by which breadwinners provide for their nuclear families. Subsection 2.12 shows that
these workers often carry large sums of money to Western Union to make wire transfers,
and that this is when they are often robbed. Therefore, an option to automatically remit a
portion of their paycheck would be of great benefit to these workers.
Additionally, while few Rohingya have bank accounts, the overwhelming majority expressed
interest in the idea of banking when it was explained to them, as shown in Subsection 2.7.
Thus, the ability of a work pilot to allow employers to provide bank accounts to participants,
is critically important. A future work pilot should take full advantage of this feature by
ensuring that banking arrangements are established before the pilot begins, so that direct
deposit can begin with the first paycheck. Banking also facilitates safer remitting, as bank
cards can be used to make wire transfers without large sums of cash on hand. Given these
benefits, it will be useful to develop a clear, simple pitch for the value of banking to present
to potential participants.
7. Find job sites convenient to Rohingya population centers and allow joint
Prior work pilots, particularly the plantation work pilot, have struggled because they pulled
participants away from their communities. While Recommendation 1 suggests choosing men
living without families make on-site living easier, these workers would still prefer to be in
close contact with their communities. For that reason, effort should be made to find jobsites
near Rohingya population centers. As Subsection 3.12 shows, the Rohingya often have
limited mobility, being unable to get driving licenses and feeling uncomfortable with public
transit due to literacy issues. Thus, jobsites within walking distance of a population center
would be ideal.
Additionally, as described in Subsection 3.4, these workers are accustomed to finding jobs
through friends, which gives them some security when moving into a new job. A work pilot,
by contrast, may be intimidating because the offer comes from the abstraction of the
Malaysian government rather than a friend they trust. Thus, incentivizing referrals and
allowing workers to apply jointly may improve uptake and retention in the pilot. Workers
could be told that, if they apply in a group, they would be given preference to be assigned to
the same jobsite, and perhaps the same work group if possible. It wouldn’t always be
possible to keep groups together, but in many cases, it would likely be easy.
8. Produce video materials to verbally and visually educate the workers on the value
of the work pilot.
Finally, all this information must be communicated to potential participants. Because of the
high rate of illiteracy described in Subsection 2.5, standard media like fliers, text messages,
etc. will not work, so a short informative video should be produced describing the work pilot
and its many benefits to potential participants. A Rohingya community leader could be
engaged to be the presenter, describing the program in Rohingya. This video would need to
be distributed to Rohingya community centers and mosques, with care taken that a video
playback device is available. This could be as simple as a community leader showing people
the video on their phone.
Appendix A: Survey Questions
Confidentiality Statement:
Thank you for agreeing to participate in our survey. This research project is conducted by Dr.
Melati Nungsari and Dr. Sam Flanders, Assistant Professors of Economics at Asia School of
Business. This project is trying to understand the lives of the Rohingya in Malaysia. We will
be asking you a series of questions for the next 30 minutes. If you do not understand any
questions, please ask us or the interpreter and we will explain them to you. We maintain
complete anonymity for survey participants we will not identify you by name in any
publication that uses the data collected today and will not use any identifying information
that could potentially reveal your true identity to external parties. Your identity will be
concealed by changing the names, locations, and parties that you may mentioned today. You
will be recorded for research purposes. Please feel free to answer the questions truthfully.
You will be paid RM 10 at the end of this survey for your time.
Terima kasih kerana bersetuju untuk mengambil bahagian dalam kaji selidik kami. Projek
penyelidikan ini dijalankan oleh Dr. Melati Nungsari dan Dr. Sam Flanders, Profesor Ekonomi
di Asia School of Business. Projek ini cuba memahami kehidupan Rohingya di Malaysia. Kami
akan meminta beberapa soalan untuk 30 minit akan datang. Jika anda tidak memahami
apa-apa soalan, sila minta kami atau jurubahasa dan kami akan menerangkannya kepada
anda. Kami tidak akan bertanya kamu soalan yang mungkin menyusahkan kamu atau
menyebabkan kamu ditangkap polis. Kami tidak akan guna nama kamu dalam apa-apa
penulisan yang dikumpulkan hari ini dan tidak akan menggunakan apa-apa maklumat yang
dapat mendedahkan identiti sebenar anda kepada pihak luar. Identiti anda akan
disembunyikan dengan mengubah nama, lokasi, dan pihak yang anda boleh sebutkan hari
ini. Anda akan direkodkan untuk tujuan penyelidikan. Sila berasa bebas untuk menjawab
soalan dengan jujur. Anda akan dibayar RM10 pada akhir tinjauan ini untuk masa anda.
Date and Time of Survey:
1. How old are you? Berapakah umur kamu?
2. What is your gender? Lelaki atau perempuan?
3. How long have you been in Malaysia? Sudah berapa lama berada di Malaysia?
4. Do you have any of the following family members still alive? How old are they? What
family members do you have in Malaysia? If they are in Malaysia, when did they
come? (Brothers, Sisters, Mother, Father, Children, Wife, Husband) Sekarang saya
nak tanya soalan pasal keluarga kamu.
o How many still alive? Berapa orang yang masih hidup?
o Any in Malaysia? Berapa orang ada di Malaysia?
o How many still alive? Berapa orang yang masih hidup?
o Any in Malaysia? Berapa orang ada di Malaysia?
o Still alive? Mak kamu masih hidup?
o In Malaysia? Since when? Mak kamu ada di Malaysia? Sejak bila?
o Still alive? Bapa kamu masih hidup?
o In Malaysia? Since when? Bapa kamu ada di Malaysia? Sejak bila?
o How many still alive? Kamu ada berapa anak?
Child 1:
Child 2:
Child 3:
Child 4:
Child 5:
o How old? Berapa umur anak kamu?
Child 1:
Child 2:
Child 3:
Child 4:
Child 5:
o Born in Malaysia? If not, where? Anak kamu lahir di Malaysia? Atau di
Child 1:
Child 2:
Child 3:
Child 4:
Child 5:
o How many still alive? Kamu ada berapa isteri?
Wife 1:
Wife 2:
Wife 3:
Wife 4:
o How old? Berapa umur isteri kamu?
Wife 1:
Wife 2:
Wife 3:
Wife 4:
o In Malaysia? If so, how long? Isteri kamu di Malaysia? Sejak bila?
Wife 1:
Wife 2:
Wife 3:
Wife 4:
o Still alive? Suami kamu masih hidup?
o How old? Berapa umur suami kamu?
o In Malaysia? If so, since when? Suami kamu di Malaysia? Sejak bila?
5. How many other living family members do you have in Malaysia? (This includes:
cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents). Siapa lagi keluarga kamu hidup di Malaysia?
Ini termasuk sepupu, pak cik, mak cik, tok, tok ayah).
6. If you work and have children, who takes care of your children for most of the day?
Jika kamu bekerja, siapa jaga anak kamu di siang hari?
7. What area do you live in here in Malaysia? Kamu tinggal di kawasan mana di
8. My home has ___ occupants and ___ rooms. Berapa orang tinggal dalam rumah
kamu? Rumah kamu ada berapa bilik?
9. How much rent do you pay every month? Berapa kamu bayar sewa rumah tiap
10. I own at least one of the following at home (circle all that apply) Sekarang, saya nak
tanya pasal apa yang kamu ada di rumah.
1. Internet wifi or cable (internet wifi atau cable)
2. Cell phone (telepon bimbit)
3. Electricity (elektrik)
4. Water (air)
5. Motor bike (motosikal)
6. Bicycle (basikal)
7. Car (kereta)
8. Microwave (microwave)
9. Fridge (peti ais)
10. Stove (tempat masak)
11. Do you live with people who are NOT your family? If you live with other people who
are NOT your family, are these people Rohingya, Malaysians, or other nationalities?
Kamu duduk di rumah dengan orang yang BUKAN keluarga kamu? Jika kamu duduk
rumah dengan orang yang BUKAN keluarga kamu, orang yang duduk serumah ini
orang Rohingya, orang Malaysia, atau orang mana?
12. Which part of Myanmar do you come from? Circle.
Kampung kamu di Myanmar nama apa?
13. Have the police ever questioned you? How many times?
Polis pernah tanya kamu soalan tak? Berapa kali pernah kena?
14. Have the police ever put you in jail? How many times?
Kamu pernah masuk jail? Berapa kali pernah masuk jail?
15. Have you ever had to pay the police? How many times and how much for each time?
Kamu pernah bayar police? Berapa kali dan berapa banyak?
16. What languages do you speak? Circle for each language. Kamu boleh cakap bahasa
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
17. What languages can you read? Circle for each language.
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
None, A Little, Fluent
Tidak boleh cakap, boleh cakap sikit-sikit, boleh cakap banyak
18. How much formal schooling have you had? Circle. Kamu ada pergi sekolah?
None (Tidak ada)
Less Than Elementary School (sekolah rendah, tapi tak habis)
Elementary School (habis sekolah rendah)
Less Than High School (sekolah menengah, tapi tak habis)
High School (habis sekolah menengah)
Some College (pergi kolej, tapi tak habis)
College Degree (habis kolej)
19. What have you done for work in the past year? [Categories: Construction,
Restaurant, Landscaping, Cleaning, Translating, Others (list down what category)]
Kamu pernah kerja apa dalam tahun lepas? Kadang-kadang Rohingya ada banyak
kerja, tolong bagi tahu pasal semua kerja. Kategori: Construction, restoran,
landskap/potong rumput/taman, cuci, interpreter, lain lain (sila nyatakan).
1. Construction
2. Restaurant
3. Landscaping
4. Cleaning
5. Translating
6. Others list down
20. How many employers did you have for each industry category?
Untuk setiap kerja kamu, kamu ada berapa majikan?
21. How much income do you make for every day that you work for each of your jobs?
Berapa gaji kamu setiap hari yang kamu kerja untuk setiap pekerjaan kamu?
22. How much income in total do you make in an average month?
Berapa gaji kamu satu bulan?
23. How many hours do you work on average every day, for each of your jobs?
Selalunya, kamu kerja berapa jam satu hari untuk setiap kerja kamu?
24. Usually, how often are you paid for your current or most recent construction job?
Circle ALL that apply.
Selalunya, bila kamu dibayar? Bulatkan SEMUA JAWAPAN yang berkenaan.
1. Daily (Tiap hari)
2. Weekly (Tiap minggu)
3. Monthly (Tiap bulan)
4. Other for example: every 3rd day, every 10 days, etc. (Lain lain contoh:
setiap 3 hari, setiap 10 hari, etc).
25. How many days in a month do you work (Berapa hari dalam satu bulan kamu kerja)
1. More than 12 hours in a day? (12 jam atau lebih) __________ days (hari)
2. 8-11 hours in a day? (8 hingga 11 jam) _________ days (hari)
3. 4-7 hours in a day? (4 hingga 7 jam) _________ days (hari)
26. Look at these pictures of faces. Circle the most appropriate response.
Tengok gambar muka-muka ini. Bagitahu saya macam mana awak rasa.
1. My employer(s) are nice to me. Majikan saya baik kepada saya.
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
2. My employer(s) pay me on time. Majikan saya tak pernah lambat bayar
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
3. If I work hard and do a good job at work, I can get a higher salary. Kalau
saya kerja kuat, saya boleh dapat gaji lagi banyak.
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
27. Compared to Bangladeshi workers, my employer(s) treat me Worse, Same, Better,
Don’t Know. (Circle) Kalau banding dengan pekerja Bangladesh, majikan saya layan
saya Lebih Teruk, Sama, Lebih Baik, atau Tidak Tahu.
28. Compared to Indonesian workers, my employer(s) treat me Worse, Same, Better,
Don’t Know. Kalau banding dengan pekerja Indonesia, majikan saya layan saya Lebih
Teruk, Sama, Lebih Baik, atau Tidak Tahu.
29. What were your jobs back in Myanmar or before you came to Malaysia?
Apakah kerja kamu semasa di Myanmar?
30. How much did you earn in the place from Question 29?
Di tempat dari Soalan 29, berapa gaji kamu setiap bulan?
Questions 31-39 are long-form questions. Make sure that the audio recorder is close to the
person being surveyed.
31. Do you enjoy your job(s)? Kamu suka kerja kamu? Kenapa?
32. How did you first get your construction job?
Macam mana kamu dapat kerja construction masa mula-mula dulu?
33. If you have had other jobs, how did you first get those other jobs?
Macam mana kamu dapat kerja-kerja lain masa mula-mula dulu?
34. Why do you like construction work compared to other types of work?
Kalau dibanding dengan kerja-kerja lain, Kenapa kamu suka kerja construction?
35. What are some challenges or difficulties that you have at your work or with your
Adakah kamu ada masalah di tempat kerja atau masalah dengan majikan?
36. Have you ever been injured at work? What happened afterwards?
Adakah kamu pernah cedera atau eksiden di tempat kerja? Apa jadi selepas itu?
37. What skills do you have that you think have been useful for you in your job(s)?
Apa yang kamu boleh buat sekarang yang penting untuk kerja kamu?
38. What skills do you NOT have that you think would be useful for you in your job(s)?
What additional skills do you need to learn for your job(s)?
Apa yang kamu TAK BOLEH buat yang penting untuk kerja kamu? Apa lagi yang
kamu kena belajar untuk buat kerja yang lebih bagus?
39. Is there anything else we should know about your life or your work?
Ada apa-apa lagi yang kamu nak beritahu kami pasal hidup kamu atau kerja kamu?
40. What support do you receive in an average month (food, housing, etc.) from anybody
else but yourself?
Kamu ada dapat bantuan duit, makanan, atau sewa daripada mana-mana orang
41. How much money do you send to your family and friends every month (in MYR) who
are NOT in Malaysia (e.g. Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, etc)? List monthly
Kamu ada hantar duit setiap bulan (dalam MYR) kepada keluarga atau rakan-rakan
di luar Malaysia (contoh: keluarga di Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, dan lain lain)?
Tulis purata anggaran bulanan.
42. How much do you spend on food per week?
Berapa banyak kamu guna untuk bayar makan tiap minggu?
43. How much do you spend on travel per week? For example: to work, to shop, etc.
Berapa banyak kamu guna untuk bayar jalan tiap minggu? Contohnya ke tempat
kerja, ke tempat shopping, dan lain-lain.
44. How much do you spend on electricity per month?
Berapa kamu bayar elektrik/lampu tiap bulan?
45. How much do you spend on water per month?
Berapa kamu bayar air tiap bulan?
46. Are you able to save money? If so, how much do you save per month?
Kamu ada simpan duit tiap bulan? Berapa?
47. In Malaysia, many people put their money in a bank, which is a place that keeps your
money safe and not stolen. You can always go and take your money out from a bank
if you need it. If you could have a bank account, would you save your money in a
bank or would you keep it yourself at home or with you? ANSWERS: BANK OR SELF
Di Malaysia, ramai orang simpan duit dalam bank. Bank akan simpan duit kamu
supaya selamat dan tidak dicuri. Jika kamu nak guna duit, kamu boleh pergi bank
untuk ambil keluar duit kamu untuk guna. Kalau kamu ada akaun bank, adakah kamu
akan simpan duit di dalam bank atau di rumah/dengan kamu?
48. Circle the most appropriate response:
1. I feel at home in Malaysia (Saya gembira tinggal di Malaysia)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
2. My family and Rohingya friends feel at home in Malaysia (Keluarga saya dan
rakan-rakan Rohingya saya suka berada di Malaysia)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
3. I am optimistic about my life in Malaysia (Saya rasa gembira bila fikir
tentang masa depan saya di Malaysia)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
4. My family and Rohingya friends are safe in Malaysia (Keluarga dan rakan-
rakan Rohingya saya selamat di Malaysia)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
5. I have good access to healthcare (Saya senang nak jumpa doctor bila sakit)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
6. I have enough food to eat every day (Saya ada cukup makan tiap hari)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
7. I am RARELY stressed or anxious (Saya JARANG susah hati dan rasa cemas
dan takut)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
8. Malaysians trust me to do a job for them (Orang Malaysia percaya yang
saya boleh buat kerja bagus untuk mereka)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
9. I have enough money to get by in Malaysia (Gaji saya cukup untuk hidup di
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
10. Someday in the future, I want to return to Myanmar (Satu hari nanti, saya
mahu balik ke Myanmar)
Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree
Sangat tidak setuju, tidak setuju, tak kisah, setuju, sangat setuju
49. Circle the most appropriate response.
1. In the past month, I have interacted with local Malaysians. Dalam bulan
yang lepas, saya bercakap atau jumpa orang Malaysia…
Never, Rarely, Often, Every Day
Tidak Pernah, Kadang-Kadang, Selalu, Tiap Hari
2. In the past month, I have interacted with other refugees who are not
Rohingya. Dalam bulan yang lepas, saya ada bercakap atau jumpa orang
pelarian yang bukan Rohingya.
Never, Rarely, Often, Every Day
Tidak Pernah, Kadang-Kadang, Selalu, Tiap Hari
Appendix B: Summary Statistics
90% CI
90% CI
1. Age (Years)* 201 25.6 26.6 27.5 22 25 30 22
3. Time in Malaysia (Years) 170 5.7 6.1 6.5 4 5 6 5
4. Num. Living brothers 201 2.4 2.7 2.9 1 2 4 2
4. In Malaysia 200 0.5 0.6 0.7 0 0 1 0
4. Num. Living Sisters 201 2.5 2.8 3.0 1 3 4 3
4. In Malaysia 199 0.10 0.16 0.21 0 0 0 0
4. Living Mother 201 73% 78% 83% - - - -
4. In Malaysia 201 1% 3% 6% - - - -
4. Living Father 200 59% 65% 71% - - - -
4. In Malaysia 201 2% 4% 7% - - - -
4. Spouse Age (Years) 87 23.7 25.0 26.2 21 23 28 22
4. Years in Malaysia 46 3.6 4.6 5.6 3 4 5 4
4. How many Children 198 0.78 0.96 1.15 0 0 2 0
4. In Malaysia 198 0.26 0.35 0.45 0 0 0 0
4. In Bangladesh 198 0.30 0.43 0.57 0 0 0 0
4. In Myanmar 198 0.05 0.11 0.17 0 0 0 0
4. Unspecified Country 198 -0.01 0.07 0.14 0 0 0 0
5. How many other family in MY 164 2. 0 2.8 3.6 0 1 3.25 0
8. Number of occupants in home 201 4.6 5.0 5.5 3 4 6 4
8. Number of Bedrooms in Home 199 1.9 2.0 2.1 1 2 3 1
9. Rent (RM) 197 183 206 229 0200 350 0
13. Times questioned by Police 175 2.8 4.7 6.5 0 1 3 0
14. Times Jailed 175 0.45 0.60 0.75 0 0 1 0
15. Times paid bribe 194 0.9 3.6 6.2 0 0 2 0
15. Typical Bribe (RM) 90 328 453 577 78. 75 200 500 50
20. Num. Bosses in Construction 181 1.8 2.4 2.9 1 1 2 1
20. In Restaurant Service 192 0.1 0.1 0.2 0 0 0 0
20. In Landscaping 191 0.0 0.3 0.5 0 0 0 0
20. In Cleaning 191 0.1 0.3 0.6 0 0 0 0
20. In Interpreting 191 0.0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
20. In Other Occupations 178 0.0 0.1 0.3 0 0 0 0
*Question title s are abbreviated. See Appendix A for full question text.
Table 1: Summary Statistics
90% CI
90% CI
16. Rohingya--Speak Fluently* 201 89% 92% 95% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 8% 11% 15% - - - -
16. Malay--Speak Fluently 201 31% 36% 42% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 4% 7% 11% - - - -
16. Rakhine--Speak Fluently 201 7% 10% 14% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 4% 6% 9% - - - -
16. Burmese--Speak Fluently 201 6% 9% 12% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 4% 6% 9% - - - -
16. English--Speak Fluently 201 0% 0% 1% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 1% 3% 5% - - - -
16. Arabic--Speak Fluently 201 1% 2% 4% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 18% 22% 27% - - - -
16. Bengali--Speak Fluently 201 1% 3% 5% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 201 0% 0% 1% - - - -
16. Hindi--Speak Fluently 170 3% 6% 9% - - - -
17. Can Read most words 170 0% 1% 3% - - - -
21. Daily Wage (RM) 164 52 54 56 47.75 50 60 50
22. Monthly Income (RM) 198 1371 1420 1469 1200 1450 1550 1500
23. Average Daily Working Hours 201 8. 3 8.4 8.5 8 8 9 8
25. Days working 12+ Hrs/Month 176 0.8 1.3 1.7 0 0 0 0
25. Days working 8-11 Hrs/Month 176 18 19 20 15 21 25 26
25. Days Working 1-7 Hrs/Month 176 2. 5 3.0 3.5 0 3 4 0
25. Working Days/Month 176 22.6 23.4 24.1 22 25 26 26
30. Monthy Income in Myanmar (RM) 157 143 180 216 0100 240 0
41. Remittances/Month (RM) 194 494 532 571 300 500 750 500
42. Food Cost/Week 195 118 132 146 75 100 150 100
43. Travel Cost/Week 187 26 33 40 013 50 0
44. Electricity Cost/Month 179 24 29 35 011 46.25 0
45. Water Cost/Month 177 16 20 23 0 0 30 0
46. Savings/Month 162 37 57 77 0 0 0 0
*Question title s are abbreviated. See Appendix A for full question text.
Table 2: Summary Statistics
26-2. Paid on
26-3. Hard
Work ->
Higher W age
48-1. Feel at
48-2. Family
Feels at
About MY
Strongly Agree 30% 39% 19% 45% 34% 27%
Agree 38% 37% 30% 29% 33% 30%
Neutral 10% 19% 22% 12% 20% 24%
Disagree 12% 3% 22% 9% 8% 14%
Strongly Disagree 9% 2% 8% 4% 4% 7%
Observations 201 201 200 201 201 200
*Cells are color coded by percentage reporting that response--darker blue means more people gave that response.
**Que stion ti tle s are abbreviated. S ee A ppendix A for f ull que stion tex t.
Table 3. Likert Scale (Agree/Disagree) Questions*
48-4. Safe
48-5. Good
Heal thcare
48-6. Enough
48-7. Rarely
Trust Me
48-10. Want
to Go Back
to MM
Strongly Agree 37% 13% 33% 16% 33% 12% 34%
Agree 42% 30% 48% 26% 55% 26% 30%
Neutral 11% 18% 10% 12% 7% 15% 5%
Disagree 7% 23% 6% 25% 6% 28% 11%
Strongly Disagree 3% 15% 3% 22% 1% 18% 19%
Observations 201 195 199 200 200 201 201
*Cells are color coded by percentage reporting that response--darker blue means more people gave that response.
**Que stio n titl es are abbreviat ed. S ee A ppendix A for f ull que stio n tex t.
Table 4. Likert Scale (Agree/Disagree) Questions*
Penang 23%
Johor 15%
Kelantan 13%
Terengganu 12%
Kedah 10%
Selangor 10%
Kuala Lumpur 5%
Pahang 5%
Perak 4%
Malacca 3%
Negeri Sembilan 2%
Observations 199
7. State of
Rakhine - Maungdaw 59%
Rakhine - Sittwe 12%
Rakhine, Buthidaung 10%
Rakhine, unspecified 5%
Mon 5%
Rakhine - Kyaukphyu 3%
Rakhine - Mrauk-U 2%
Yangon 1%
Magway 1%
Sagaing 1%
Rakhine, Kyaukphyu 1%
Mandalay 1%
Kachin 1%
Ayeyarwady 1%
Observations 194
12. Area of Origin--
Electricity 98%
Water 98%
Cellphone 96%
Stove 94%
Internet 58%
Fridge 49%
Motorbike 27%
Bicycle 22%
Car 3%
Microwave 3%
10. Possessions
*Question titles are abbreviated. See Appendix A for full question text.
Daily 4%
Weekly 24%
Monthly 53%
Other*** 19%
Observations 111
24. Payment
*Cells are color coded by percentage reporting that response--darker blue means more
people gave that response.
**Question titles are abbreviated. See Appendix A for full question text.
***Often every 15 days or biweekly.
Every Day 20% 4%
Often 21% 8%
Rarel y 33% 12%
Never 25% 76%
Observations 201 201
49. Interactions outside Rohingya
*Cells are color coded by percentage reporting that response--darker blue means more
people gave that response.
**Question titles are abbreviated. See Appendix A for full question text.
Bette r 11% 9%
Same 36% 39%
Worse 7% 8%
Don’t Know 47% 44%
Observations 199 199
Treatment Compared to Other Migrants*
*Cells are color coded by percentage reporting that response--darker blue means more
people gave that response.
**Question titles are abbreviated. See Appendix A for full question text.
... Linking these problematic conditions with the Malaysian lens consequently brought various pieces of evidence. To date, there is only one empirical study done by Nungsari & Flanders (2018) conducted on Rohingya refugees labour participation in the Malaysia labour market. The study was carried out on Rohingya, who currently worked in the construction sector. ...
... Surprisingly, this shows that Rohingya refugees are made above the minimum wage and contribute to fiscal consumption through high spending on groceries, rent, bills payment, and remittance. As mentioned earlier, the government pilot project on Rohingya has seen to be unsuccessful and struggle to retain participants, which can be explained Nungsari & Flanders (2018) research findings. First, the demographics of this Rohingya is different comparing to the other economic migrants. ...
... No legal framework, language barriers, cultural differences, inadequate human capital, low wages, unsecured working place, antirefugee sentiments and less job mobility in the informal economy reported as challenges to refugees employment. Poor language competence, less educational attainment and some required job skills which lead to another gateway to inclined in employment challenges (Buber-Ennser et al., 2016;Dubus, 2017;Nungsari & Flanders, 2018;OECD, 2016). Additionally, for the refugees seeking to work professionally, they have faced more challenges in ensuring their qualification to be recognized in the host country. ...
Full-text available
A refugee in Malaysia cannot work legally due to this nation has not acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. This protracted circumstance has led the refugee community to work illegally. Analysis from literature found that the Rohingya refugees are not suitable to work in confined environment and less job mobility, which partly due to human capital constraints and some job mismatch issues. Future research is called to gain empirical data on understanding the readiness, challenges, and strategies to be implemented. The article is prominent in assisting the government in providing a clear stance on the role of Rohingya refugees in the Malaysian labor market. Keywords:Rohingya refugees; Employment; Labour Market; Readiness. eISSN: 2398-4287© 2020. The Authors. Published for AMER ABRA cE-Bs by e-International Publishing House, Ltd., UK. This is an open access article under the CC BYNC-ND license ( Peer–review under responsibility of AMER (Association of Malaysian Environment-Behaviour Researchers), ABRA (Association of Behavioural Researchers on Asians) and cE-Bs (Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. DOI:
... Most empirical studies about the economics of forced migration have dealt with refugees' impacts on the host country. Yet, in Malaysia, only one study has been conducted involving the Rohingya refugees sample (Nungsari & Flanders, 2018). There is considerable debate among all the stakeholders in terms of potential opportunities and burdens about the presence and local integration of refugees into the host economy (Baloch, Shah, Noor, & Lacheheb, 2017). ...
... As such, the spill-over effects of problems by adding additional welfare costs, increasing informal labour market, draining the public resources and other social ills have distorted government approach to allowing their participation in the host labour market (Baloch et al., 2017;Chambers, 1986;Clemens, Huang, & Graham, 2018;Jacobsen, 2002;Roger, 2012;Ruiz & Vargas-Silva, 2016;Shellito, 2016). As described by (Connor, 2010;Nungsari & Flanders, 2018), refugees, on average, have poor educational attainments, limiting their employment opportunities. As a result, they will expand the supply of lower-skilled workforce in the informal sector, which discursively drags the wage level. ...
... The comprehensive profiling methodology develop was based on Bloch (2004) (2011) and Nungsari & Flanders (2018) findings. The questionnaires were organized into five main themes: ...
Full-text available
One of the most important trends with regards to forced migration is the growing number of refugees hosted in developing countries like Turkey, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. The unnoticed facts, but the truth is Rohingya ethnic are the longest staying refugees in Malaysia. In line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose primary objectives to leave no-one behind, protect the environment, and ensure peace, investigating who these people are in terms of their livelihood, skills, and other economic characteristics is imperative. The data was collected through a face-to-face structured questionnaire. The study findings suggested some valuable information to assist the government in delivering inclusive refugees' rights to work. Keywords: Rohingya Refugees; Economic Profiling; Inclusive Employment; Sustainable Development Goals. eISSN: 2398-4287© 2020. The Authors. Published for AMER ABRA cE-Bs by e-International Publishing House, Ltd., UK. This is an open access article under the CC BYNC-ND license ( Peer–review under responsibility of AMER (Association of Malaysian Environment-Behaviour Researchers), ABRA (Association of Behavioural Researchers on Asians) and cE-Bs (Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. DOI:
... This study was motivated by the increasing trend of Rohingya refugees in the Malaysian landscape and the over-reliance of the nation's labour market on migrant workers. In conclusion, the present study is aligned with previous arguments that Rohingya refugees actively contributed to the Malaysian labour market (Nungsari et al., 2020;Nungsari & Flanders, 2018;Todd et al., 2019;Wake & Cheung, 2016). All the Rohingya refugees in this study indicated that they were currently working in various sector economies. ...
Full-text available
As of 2019, Malaysia has about 1.87 million low-skilled migrant workers, with the majority from Indonesia. Likewise, there are about 180,000 refugees in Malaysia, especially the Rohingya from Myanmar. This study empirically determines whether Malaysia could replace a portion of the lower-skilled migrant workers that Malaysia's economy depends on with a group of people indispensable by Malaysia by investigating their psychological factors contributing to individual work performance. Hence, this research distributed questionnaires to equal numbers of employed Rohingya refugees (n = 180) and Indonesian lower-skilled migrant workers (n = 180). The data were analysed using structural equation modelling-partial least square (SEM-PLS) method, SMART PLS 2.0 software. The results showed that that Rohingya workers' resilience attributes strongly influenced individual work performance, whereas self-efficacy attributes were the main contributor to Indonesian migrant's work performance. There were significant differences between the two types of migrants in terms of path coefficient. Hence, this implies that the impacts of psychological factors differed between various migrants backgrounds. The study fills a significant gap in comparing psychological behaviour between refugees and economic migrants like the Indonesians. In addition, this study clarifies the factors that are more effective in stimulating work performance according to the type of migrants.
This article provides a critical examination of the current extensive promotion of ‘financial inclusion for refugees’. The current system largely ignores refugees from the marketplace, and they are not very visible in their host country financial service providers, particularly in the Malaysia narrative. This article establishes financial profiling, examining the possible financial inclusion of unbanked refugees, particularly Rohingyas in Malaysia. Hence, this study distributed questionnaires to 306 Rohingya refugees registered in UNHCR. The findings reveal that some refugees are unaware of financial service providers, especially digital financial services such as E-wallet. However, they were fascinated by having access to affordable and suitable financial services. The paper further explores the possible financial and economic impact of extending financial services to unbanked refugees. This study is amongst the pioneer in Malaysia, exploring challenges in the financial inclusion of refugees. The results are relevant to governments, financial regulators, and central banks to structure the right interventions to counter the challenges of extending financial services to this group.
The sharing economy has grown significantly in recent years and is expected to expand further in the future. While many proponents suggest that it will lead to inclusive and sustainable development, some sceptics are critical about its promise of inclusivity, particularly for marginalised populations at the base of the pyramid (BoP). In this chapter, we explore issues surrounding the sharing economy and its impacts on BoP. More specifically, this chapter investigates the feasibility of having the sharing economy provide livelihood opportunities for the refugee and asylum seeker population in Malaysia. The findings suggest that sharing economy could be an alternative solution to ease the plight of refugee population who are denied the legal rights to work in a country. However, there are some pre-requisites that need to be fulfilled to enable the participation of refugees in the sharing economy. We also identify the enabling factors and key barriers to participation in the sharing economy that may affect the vulnerable groups’ access to livelihoods in this ecosystem. Using qualitative data from multiple stakeholders, this chapter also focuses on relevant policy implications resulting from the findings.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.