Malawi Defends Labour Export to Asia
Lilongwe – Malawi’s labour minister, Eunice Makangala, recently came under fire in Parliament following an agreement with South Korea to send at least 100 000 young Malawians to work in the Korean peninsula.
Some members of Parliament described the move as “human trafficking”, while others questioned the rationale when the country is complaining about brain drain.
Steven Kamwendo, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), vented that: “We always cry about brain drain and encourage Malawians in the Diaspora to come back home and yet here we are exporting the cream of our labour force abroad.”
Main opposition, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), spokesman on finance in Parliament Joseph Njobvuyalema supported Kamwendo’s argument, stressing that Malawi wants to export labour when foreigners continue to flock into the country to do business and take up good jobs.
Njobvuyalema argued that the exercise would diminish the country’s tax base.
The lawmakers wanted to know why government took the initiative without informing the Parliamentary Committee on International Relations. Minister Makangala, however, said all procedures were followed.
Minister Makangala defended the move saying Malawi is faced with high levels of unemployment and sending the youth to work abroad would help them earn a living as well as gain expertise to develop the country.
She reminded Parliament that Malawi is a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), adding that labour migration is not new in Malawi nor is it in other countries.
The southern African nation has historically been exporting labour to countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Minister of Youth, Enoch Chakufwa Chihana, also defended the move to export labour to Korea, Dubai, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates.
Minister Chihana noted that during the 1800s East Asian economic powerhouse, China, once exported labour to California, USA, from where the people came with ideas, which they are using to develop their country.
“Most of our youths are just sitting idle in villages and towns, they are not working, they are not in school. This is an opportunity for them to be productive,” he said.
At least 15 000 people applied to be considered for the programme but just over 300 will leave as the first lot for South Korea.
Government sources indicate that the youths will be getting about US$1 000 per month, quite substantial in a country where most civil servants and other workers earn less than US$100 a month.
Minister Makangala, nonetheless, said half of the salaries the Malawians will be earning in South Korea will be sent back to Malawi for government to keep for them.
“We want them to accumulate enough savings so that at the end of their tour of duty they would have accumulated enough to invest in something profitable in Malawi,” she said.
The move has also raised concern outside Malawi, following an Amnesty International report ‑ published on May 22, which exposed how immigrant workers are mistreated, underpaid, even raped in the Asian country.
President Joyce Banda during the May Day celebrations this year defended the government initiative, also arguing that it will help reduce unemployment levels in addition to helping Malawians acquire the much-needed experience to develop the country.
President Banda said the country’s youth would be exposed to best practices in the various countries, which will benefit the country in future.
An advert placed in the local media said Malawians would be working as receptionists, waiters and housekeepers.
Minister Makangala said selected candidates are expected to leave for the Asian country in two or three weeks after undergoing orientation and having all necessary documents arranged.
Meanwhile, the ministry of labour conducted interviews and medical examinations for all those who applied for the Dubai/Kuwait hospitality programme.