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New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 11, 1 (June 2009): 304-317.

EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA:
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
MAIMUNAH AMINUDDIN1
Independent Scholar

Introduction
This paper offers an overview of the employment relations framework in
Malaysia, focusing on the current status of three key areas central to the employment relations system, namely, the strength of the trade union movement, security of employment for employees, and the state’s position on measures to deal with sexual harassment. It will only examine these subsystems of the employment relations system as they apply in the private sector where the majority of employees work, this sector is considered the main driver of Malaysia’s economy.
The Trade Union Movement
The relationship between employers and employees in Malaysia is regulated by a number of laws which were introduced prior to independence (1957) and in the first decade immediately thereafter. The colonial economy prior to
World War II (1939-45) was based on tin mining and rubber plantations. The need for labour in these two industries changed the human landscape of
Malaysia (Malaya as it then was) for ever. The colonial government either allowed or actively encouraged the importation of labour from China and
India, thus creating the multi-racial society which is Malaysia today. The wages of this growing group of employees were low and working conditions were mostly abysmal. Jomo and Todd explained the lack of governmental interference to improve the lot of workers by saying, ‘As a major employer

1

Maimunah Aminuddin (m_aminuddin@hotmail.com) taught industrial relations, employment law and human resource management for 34 years in Universiti Teknologi
MARA, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia.

Employment Relations

305

itself, the government had a vested interest in keeping labour costs low.’2 In...

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