Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 1 of 1 items for

  • Author or Editor: Anita Ghimire x
Clear All Modify Search

The COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia drew attention to the extremely poor living conditions of the country’s approximately 2.5 million migrants from South and Southeast Asia working in manufacturing, construction, services, and agriculture. International media reports throughout 2020 and 2021 highlighted the overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe accommodations provided by employers, including cramped hostels, stacked containers, and rented apartments. This article addresses how migrant worker accommodation in Malaysia is utilised by the state and by employers as a spatial mechanism of control to regulate migrant labour.

This case study draws on over a hundred in-depth interviews with Nepali migrant workers, recruitment agents, employers, and policy officials in Malaysia. We detail how the Malaysian government’s requirement for migrants to live in employer-provided housing forms part of intensified immigration controls implemented by the federal government. This policy effectively transforms employers into ‘landlords’, bringing migrants’ ‘private space’ under their control, thereby enabling employers’ increased surveillance of their activities. We found that employers utilised the opportunity to discipline their workforces and intensify work regimes. We therefore argue that housing has become a double-layered regulatory tool to deepen labour control among migrant populations, perpetuate a state of temporariness, and reinforce visible boundaries between citizens and non-citizens. In the process, migrants’ living quarters (spaces of social reproduction) have been subsumed into the organisation of production, serving the demands of the low-wage, highly-controlled, political economy of Malaysia.

Open access