Excluding migrant labor from the Malaysian bioeconomy: Working and living conditions of migrant workers in the palm oil sector in Sabah

  • Janina Puder Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Keywords: Bioeconomy, Labor Migration, Palm Oil, Social Exclusion, Working and Living Conditions

Abstract

In 2012, Malaysia launched its bioeconomy program, with the palm oil sector as one of the main pillars. In focusing on the societal processes that accompany the Malaysian plans to establish a bioeconomy, it is of special interest to understand which occupation groups in the palm oil sector are included and which are excluded from the socio-economic targets of the program. Research on the bioeconomy, as well as a green economy more broadly, often neglect the possible effects of green economy models on labor markets. I argue that low-skilled migrant workers employed in the Malaysian palm oil sector are structurally excluded from the national goal of enhancing the living and working conditions of the population by transforming into a bioeconomy. This exclusion intersects with a specific precarity caused by the socio-economic status of low-skilled migrant workers. The article shows that Malaysia’s bioeconomy program reinforces the precarity of this group of workers, expressed in the lack of perspectives for upward mobility, their discrimination on the labor market, and in social barriers preventing them from further training. The findings presented are based on expert interviews and semi-structured qualitative interviews with workers from Sabah.

Author Biography

Janina Puder, Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Janina Puder is a sociologist and researcher in the Junior Research Group “Bioeconomy and Inequalities. Transnational Entanglements and Interdependencies in the Bioenergy Sector” at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. In her PhD project she observes transnational rural labor conditions in the context of the emerging bioeconomy in Malaysia exemplified by the case of migratory labor. 

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Published
2019-07-01
How to Cite
Puder, J. (2019) “Excluding migrant labor from the Malaysian bioeconomy: Working and living conditions of migrant workers in the palm oil sector in Sabah”, Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 12(1), pp. 31-48. Available at: https://journals.univie.ac.at/index.php/aseas/article/view/2902 (Accessed: 21August2019).
Section
Current Research on Southeast Asia