Illegal Labor in China and Malaysia


Illegal labor is considered as the concept of violating labor laws, regulations and labor relations as established by the workers and labor unions. It includes child labour, recruiting employees without registration, and recruiting foreign employees without approval from relevant authorities, or without following necessary international labor laws. Illegal labor in China is mainly in form of child labor while illegal labor in Malaysia is mainly in form of illegal foreign labor. Child labor is the employment of children to work in an environment that undermines their childhood and deprives them the opportunity to join regular school. Child labor may be socially, physically and mentally harmful to children.  On the other hand, illegal foreign workers include illegal migrants who take dangerous jobs including working in construction sites. The tutorial presentation of the group focused on these two aspects of illegal labor. This report will analyse the content of the class presentation including child labor in China and illegal foreign workers in Malaysia. It will also analyse the success of the debate facilitation component in regards with the issue of illegal labor.

Child Labor in China

Illegal labor in China has been occasioned by the competition for survival among the working class. This competition is based on labor costs as companies seek cheap labor to reduce labor costs. Labor shortage problem has also persisted in China, making families to resort to children as sources of labor (Hindman, 2009). Therefore, child labor has become a common problem to Chinese workers. According to the People’s daily, 10-20 million high school students dropped out of school by 2007 to join the labor force. This is considered as child labor because the children are deprived of their opportunity to continue with basic regular education. About 3 million of the children drop out of school every year t enter the labor market. The reason for children to enter into the labor market is because they come from poor families which cannot be able to meet their daily needs; hence they have to join the labor market to earn income to support their families. The second reason for increased child labor in China is the influence of factory interests. Factories want to fulfill their interests of reducing costs and increasing profits in the competitive market in order to survive. Children are the main sources of cheap labor that can enable factories to fulfill their interests.

Child labor in China has also been caused by globalization which has increased the demand of child labor in the country. For instance, most accidents and other problems caused by child labor occur in foreign and local manufacturing, construction and processing companies seeking to reduce costs in order to compete well with other companies in the global market. The growth of export industry in China requires a large number of workers at cheap price.  China has a large population of children in the rural areas – up to hundreds of millions. These children are tempting sources of labor which have been used by many factories and electronic companies to obtain cheap labor. This has led to hundreds of thousands of children joining child labor in China (USAToday, 2007). Child traffickers have therefore increased, and they have escaped government control because there are too many children from poor families especially from the rural areas who are seeking income for their poor families. USA Today (2007) suggests that child labor in china has been caused by a combination of weak laws, poverty, and education system defects.

Children engaged in Child Labor in China are usually between ages 5 and 17. These include children who drop out of school and those who work while still in school, including those who are transported to factories during school holidays. Child labor is extremely risky and dangerous for children because they have to work for long hours under extreme conditions. The law in China does not allow children under the age of 16 to work except for some special circumstances that may force the children to work, e.g. educational labor (Hindman, 2009). Educational labor involves students in schools doing some work such as growing and harvesting crops. However, some schools take advantage of these exceptional; circumstances to force children to work in their private factories. Another example of child labour was when 500 children were employed by their school to work during summer in 14-hour shifts in a factory.  The reason was to enable the children to earn extra money for their needs. These children worked without enough food and water and under poor living conditions.

According to (2013), child labor has been banned and has become limited in China, but there are still incidences of child labor in factories that manufacture electronics, e.g. Samsung and apple. China Labor Watch accused Samsung of hiring children in China in 2013. Samsung investigated this claim, and in 2014 it found out that its main supplier in China Dongguan Shinyang Electronics was hiring underage workers at its suppliers. There was an illegal hiring process including hiring of children in June 2014. Samsung terminated its contract with this company upon finding this malpractice of child labor. Apple also has also employed children under the age of 15 to work in its manufacturing and assembly centers in china. In 2013, the internal audits of Apple showed that there were 70 cases of child labor; leading to the termination of the company’s contract with Chinese supplier Guagdong Real Faith Pingzhuou Electronics. This supplier of Apple in China had employed 74 workers under age 16, according to the audit. Other suppliers of Apple based in China including Behemoth FoxConn have also been accused of providing poor working conditions and safety standards to children working in their manufacturing sites. Most of the incidences of child labor have occurred in Dongguan where there are various industrial and manufacturing companies.

There are various effects of child labor in China. First, they never get a chance to pursue education which is important in their development. More than half of underage children working in factories and construction sites in China usually engage in hazardous work which causes permanent physical or mental impairment (United States, 2009). Children engaging in child labor also work for long hours and operate machines that were intended for adults. This leads them to develop physical and psychological problems at an early age. They also face malnutrition, prostitution and sexual harassment. There are also various psychological and physiological diseases related to child labor. Working children are also subject to hazards that may cause injury and death because underage children are unaware of situations in the workplace compared to adults. Child labor also leads to loss of potential skills and knowledge as children lack enough education to gain knowledge and kills that they need to improve their lives. Offering them meager salaries does not solve their poverty problems, but just increases them.

In order to stop child labor, multinational corporations and local employers in the electronics and construction industries should give strict warning and conduct rigorous audits on their supply chains in China. Furthermore, the relevant authorities should enforce strict rules against child labor, encourage education spending, and allow non-governmental organisations to help in the fight against child labor. In order to tackle the problem of child labor from its source, Chinese government should overhaul the primary and middle school structure (USA Today, 2007). Elimination of child labor also requires elimination of poverty.

Illegal Foreign Workers in Malaysia

Illegal immigrants in Malaysia make up a large proportion of the total population of Malaysia. Estimates show that there are more than 2 million illegal immigrants in the country. Malaysia’s labor market is composed of 730,000 foreign workers which is a significant proportion of the total 2,220,000 workers in Malaysia (Garcés-Mascareñas, 2012). Among the foreign workers, 68% of them are foreign workers. Most of the foreign workers working in Malaysia are from Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Burma. These foreign workers form a significant part of Malaysia’s cheap labor in the service and manufacturing industry (Office of International Labour, 2010). Illegal immigrants in Malaysia work in agricultural and construction sites. They take up low-wage jobs that the Malaysian locals do not want. However, efforts have been made recently by the government recently to deport illegal immigrants into the country. The cost of deporting such immigrants is high, and their employers also lose income that they receive from the illegal workers.

Illegal immigrants in Malaysia lack proper documentations to work in the country (Ahsan, 2010). They are also unregistered in the country’s immigration department. The reason why immigrants prefer Malaysia is because they are able to get jobs there which have been rejected by the locals. Plantation and construction industries in Malaysia use illegal immigrants in their production activities because they accept low wages, which leads to decreased costs of such companies. Following the improvement of Malaysian economy, the demand for foreign labor has increased significantly. This is because more labor is required fill the labor market for construction, domestic helps, palm oil extraction, restaurants and other jobs that the locals have refused to work in.

This being the case, the question is why the employers prefer illegal immigrants to legal immigrants. Under the law, a typical employer engages a foreign worker only after clearly showing that they are not able to employ local workers in Malaysia. This is done through the submission of a request form through the JCS. They should then submit application through the KDN after 60 days (Schendel, Lyons & Ford, 2012). The employers are then given an approval to go ahead to the department of immigration in Malaysia where they get government processing and pay levy. Most companies use recruitment agencies and agents to make sure that they get the right talents of foreign workers with the required approval and payment receipts. This shows that to engage with foreign workers it takes companies a hard time to comply with the required government procedures and regulations. Therefore, the need for foreign workers by small companies is hampered; creating a demand for illegal foreign workers.

The largest numbers of illegal foreign workers in Malaysia come from Indonesia. Most of them work in palm oil and plantation companies as sub-contractors the reason why most Indonesians go to Malaysia to work is because they get low pay when they work in Indonesia. Infrastructure is also not well funded in Australia to create employment. Therefore, they have to go to Malaysia legally or illegally as long as they can get a job.

Assessment of the success of the Debate

The debate on illegal labor was successful because it was possible to examine all the aspects of illegal labor in China and Malaysia. Members participated by giving their views and suggesting the sites from the internet where information about illegal labor can found. Considering illegal foreign workers in Malaysia, the debate was intensive and members argued over whether the illegal immigrants are increasing or decreasing. It was found out that deportation has increased in the country; hence the illegal foreign immigrants are decreasing.


It is clear from this report that illegal labor has become a major problem in international labor relations. Focusing on Chinese child labor and Malaysian illegal foreign workers, it has been determined that illegal labor is caused by the interaction of the pressure of employers to lower costs and the pressure of poor people to increase their income through participation in the labor market. This has resulted in various consequences. Malaysia has developed a harsh method of solving the problem by deporting illegal immigrants while in China children are suffering the consequences of child labor as they contract diseases, get injuries, and others even die. The governments of China and Malaysia need to develop appropriate mechanisms to address these problems of illegal labor. China needs to improve its economic and education system in order to enable its people to meet their daily needs and move out of poverty that forces them into child labor. Malaysia need to improve its immigration policies and make immigration process easier for foreigners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *