Growing unemployment and mass retrenchments in the rubber industry

Talk by DAP Organizing Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the Batu Pahat DAP Branch first anniversary dinner in Batu Pahat, Johore on Sunday, July 21 at 8 p.m.

Over the months, thousands of estate workers have lost their jobs. At present another 5,000 are facing imminent retrenchment.

The retrenchment of workers in the rubber industry has reached crisis proportion. It is deplorable that the government has failed to take concrete, vigorous and imaginative action to deal with this problem, either by reducing the scale of retrenchments of finding alternative means of livelihood for the retrenched workers.

What is the government for, if it is not to look after the welfare of the needy, particularly those who have been thrown onto the unemployment heap?

The Alliance continues to adopt the “wait-and-see“ attitude, as if hoping that the problem will disappear if one waits long enough. Meanwhile, thousands of Malaysians have lost their rice bowls, while their children and dependents are beginning to and starvation, suffering and hardship, in the face.

The problem of retrenchments in the rubber industry is not a problem which cropped up overnight. It had been developing over the past few years.

The Statistical Bulletin of West Malaysia over the past years is an excellent record of the decline of total employment in the rubber industry.

According to the latest Monthly Statistical Bulletin of West Malaysia (April 1968), the total employment in rubber estates fell from 200,568 workers and 48,150 contract labourers in January 1967 to 183,854 workers and 39,754 contract labourers in January 1968. In other words, within these 12 months, 23,118 persons lost their jobs in the rubber estates. If added to this year’s mass retrenchments, since 1967, over 30,000 persons have been thrown onto the unemployment heap in the rubber industry alone.

When we also consider the fact that 100,000 school-leavers enter the labour market every year, the magnitude of the problem of unemployment is evident to all.

It is surprising that the government could still claim that over the years, unemployment had been kept to 6% of the labour force. How this figure is reached, only Alliance leaders know.

The government has failed to tackle this growing problem of unemployment and mass retrenchments in the rubber industry with the imagination and urgency it deserves.

When we think of tens of thousands losing their jobs, it is not merely a matter of figure.

Even more vital, we must think of the human cost involved, the human pain, suffering, hardships they entailed.

We urge the immediate establishment of a high-powered commission of inquiry into twin problems of growing unemployment and mass retrenchments represented by economists, government representatives, trade unionists and management representatives.

To allow the problem to escalate, which the Alliance is doing, is only going to cause more human misery, suffering and add on to already large reservoir of national discontent, frustration and unrest.

Audited on 2021-03-29.