Employment relations and the state in Malaysia



Publication Details

Crinis, V. D. & Parasuraman, B. (2016). Employment relations and the state in Malaysia. Journal of Industrial Relations, 58 (2), 215-228.


The post-colonial state in Malaysia has been driven primarily by the logic of pacification and accumulation, as reflected in its sustained reliance on export-oriented industrialisation and high levels of political control. These fundamental characteristics of the Malaysian state are reproduced in the realm of employment relations, which are dominated by managerial unilateralism as a consequence of a long history of union repression. Malaysia's adherence to a minimalist version of the tripartite framework promoted by the International Labour Organization and its long-standing status as a middle-income country have meant the kinds of international pressure and support for change evident in some other Southeast Asian countries is largely absent. Internally, pressure for change has been minimal because of the heavy hand of the state, which has made it clear that any challenge will be dealt with severely both at the individual and the organisational level. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that many traditionally unionised export-oriented industries have shifted to contract workers and regulatory adjustments have allowed for enhanced employment flexibility.

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