I SAT at a table in Putrajaya recently, with some government officers and managers in the industry, worrying about how to get local workers to come and work in plantations. We needed an answer.
There was a time when Malaysia was not short of labour. Estates were small and there were few factories in town. Many workers came from India and settled, and their children and grandchildren stayed on the estates. Often they would come to my office asking to be tappers or work in the rubber factory.
Now it is the estate managers who are looking for workers. Over the years townships have expanded. Factories sprang up. In the countryside more land was opened for oil palm. But many were happy to move to town with amenities and good schools. They have a better chance to safeguard the future prosperity of their sons and daughters. There is a status in living in big cities, but they could not boast about living in an estate.