Highlights:
  1. Association says SMEs already paying above minimum wage
  2. Trade Unions slam RM50 increment in minimum wage
  3. MITI engaging Thai business figures to attract more investments
  4. Lazada to focus on local brands in Merdeka Fiesta
  5. Standard Chartered Saadiq embraces digital in a big way
  6. Hong Kong trails Singapore, Myanmar and Mexico in expat life
SMEs say already paying workers higher than minimum wage The Small and Medium Enterprises Associal of Malaysia (Samenta) said most businesses, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), pay their staff higher than the minimum wage. Samenta also expressed support for the increment of the minimum wage to RM1,050 per month nationwide effective January 1 next year. “We reiterate our stand that wages should ultimately be dictated by market forces,” Samenta policy and government relations chairman Datuk William said in a statement. “In most industries, including the plantation and manufacturing sectors, the demand for workers far outstrip supply. As a result, employers are resorting to offering benefits such as free lodging and meals, on top of wages to attract and retain workers,” he added. He also claimed that as labour shortage was a major challenge, most SMEs were willing to pay higher salaries to attract skilled workers. The government announced Wednesday that the minimum wage for the private sector will be raised to RM1,050 monthly across the board for peninsular Malaysia (currently RM1,000) and Sabah and Sarawak that are both at RM920. Meanwhile trade unions have slammed the quantum of the increase, saying the RM50 increment was meaningless. Ten Malaysian trade unions today decried the minimum wage increase as a “meaningless” exercise. The unions of workers in the electronic, nursing, timber, forestry, and construction industries said the increase of the minimum wage by RM50 in the peninsula failed to allow workers to live a life of dignity. National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam said the Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election manifesto had given many workers hope that a RM1,500 minimum wage might be a reality soon. “Considering the already stagnant state of working class wages against the rising costs of living, RM50 a month is utterly meaningless,” he said. Earlier this year Bank Negara outlined that the estimated cost of living for a single worker in Kuala Lumpur was RM2,700 a month, while it was RM6,500 monthly for a couple with two children. “The gulf between what Bank Negara has said is needed for a minimum acceptable standard of living and the proposed new minimum wage of RM 1,500 defies comprehension,” Kishnam said. The unions agreed that in 2019, the minimum wage increase should have been set at RM1,500 (including standardisation across Sabah and Sarawak), but said there must be a tangible pathway to lift the minimum wage to the living wage level of RM2,700 within five years. Malayan Nurses Union president Nor Hayati Binti Abd Rashid said that low wages have created deep impacts across the economy, since stagnant wages lead to stagnant consumption. “The World Bank has said that Malaysia will achieve high-income status by 2020, but our deeply unequal distribution of wealth means that many too many workers are being left behind,” said Rashid. “Lifting the wages of the lowest paid workers in the country does more to guarantee that capital will be pumped back into the economy, because low paid workers spend their money, unlike wealthy executives.” Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia Nor Azlan Yaacob general secretary said that the common conception that the minimum wage is only for workers that are starting out is simply not true. “In our experience, without a union onsite in a position to collectively bargain, it is very rare for employers to take the initiative to lift wages by themselves”, said Yaacob. “Our industries ― wood processing, pulp and paper and furniture ― are key export industries that generate a lot of revenue, and yet workers are often paid at or just above the minimum. MITI engaging Thai business figures to attract more investments The International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) is engaging Thai prominent business figures to encourage them into increasing their investments in Malaysia. Its minister, Darell Leiking saidsMalaysia’s new government was pro-business and welcomed foreign investments that were mutually beneficial. “Malaysia needs to look at re-strategising what we already have with Thailand. We would like to bring industry leaders to look at Malaysia as an investment destination,” he told Bernama in Bangkok where he is currently on a three-day working visit. He is scheduled to meet Thailand’s captains of industries in Bangkok. Thailand is Malaysia’s fifth largest trading partner globally and second largest in ASEAN. Lazada shines spotlight on local brands at Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day Quayside Fiesta Local brands, sellers, and products were the centre of attention during the Merdeka Day & Malaysia Day Quayside Fiesta, thanks to online shopping giant Lazada. The event took place in Kota Kemuning over the weekend, where hundreds of modern and traditional Malaysian creations ranging from foods and handicrafts, to apparel and home and living were on display at the Lazada Bazaar. The marketplace bazaar was held in conjunction with property developer Gamuda Land and the support of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). 25 retail pop-up stalls were set up, featuring selected vendors such as MaryamBayam, Hanalluna, and Pentec Online. The bazaar was the perfect platform to showcase how Lazada eases adoption of e-commerce for all businesses and individuals. Standard Chartered Saadiq embraces digital in a big way Standard Chartered Saadiq Berhad is on the right track to being a digital bank with a human touch, with nearly half of all its’ clients embracing digital services for their banking needs. Of Saadiq’s total client base, 45% use digital banking; and of these, 90% of their transactions are done digitally, via online or mobile banking, self-service ATMs and branch Straight-Through-Processing, or branch automation. Ali Allawala, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Saadiq Berhad, said the 45% adoption rate by Saadiq clients is very encouraging. “This is because the latest World Islamic Banking Competitiveness report by Ernst & Young1 showed that Islamic banking users have typically lagged behind conventional banking users when it comes to adopting digitalisation,” he said. According to the report, 38% of conventional banking users surveyed used digital banking, in contrast to only 26% of Islamic banking users. Hong Kong trails Singapore, Myanmar and Mexico in expat life Hong Kong’s high cost of living, long working hours and scarcity of childcare have made the city one of the least preferred destinations for expats, according to a new survey, which ranked it 56th out of 68 economies worldwide. Foreigners reported difficulties making friends and staying healthy, but were relatively happy with transport and internet services. The city trailed Vietnam (14th), Myanmar (53rd) and mainland China (55th). The findings were published in the latest Expat Insider survey by networking website InterNations, which interviewed about 18,000 expatriates around the world in February and March. Participants were asked to rate the country or territory they lived in on 48 factors, divided into five categories – quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, family life and personal finances. A minimum of 75 respondents were needed from a place for it to gain a ranking in the study. For the second year in a row, Bahrain took the top spot. Foreign workers praised the Gulf state’s friendliness and said it was easy to make a life there. Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico and Singapore took the second, third, fourth and fifth spots respectively. Among the bottom 10 destinations this year were Britain (59th), India (66th), Saudi Arabia (67th) and Kuwait (68th).