“Pandemic forced many into the informal sector, including flesh trade”

DUE to the economic volatility, many working-class Malaysians had no choice but to join the informal sector such as the gig economy, including becoming sex workers, said Jaringan Pekerja Tidak Formal representative Ahmad Yasin.

He said this in a forum held by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) roadshow entitled Himpunan Marhaen (People’s Gathering).

Also present in the forum include Seed Foundation representative Jane Kasim and Nasha and e-hailing service representative Muazz Ishak.

“The transgender community, notably, being a part of the sexual minority community offers them the least available opportunity in society.

“Before the pandemic, those who were beauticians, small business owners and promoters had to resort to sex work due to the economic downturn. By being sex workers, they are now more exposed to discrimination,” Ahmad said.

Nasha pointed the abuse suffered by sex workers from gangsters and the authorities, with many cases filed against their abusers being buried.

“Hate crime, abuse and even murders of sex workers by their clients and vengeful lovers are rarely acted upon by the authorities.

“These are sufferings of our sex workers, which dishearteningly goes unnoticed by the public,” she quipped.

On related matter, Ahmad pointed out that based on the statistics provided by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), 62% of working-class Malaysians were not covered by any form of social safety protection net, especially those employed in the informal sector.

He added that these people are highly vulnerable to economic volatility, as opposed to those employed in the formal sectors.

 

Over 60% not covered by EPF, SOCSO

 

For example, Ahmad pointed out that those working in the informal sector are not covered under Employment Act 1955, which disallows them from enjoying statutory benefits from EPF and the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO).

“Not only they don’t get a minimum wage but they also don’t have labour protection and rights to form unions. The don’t even get proper compensation from their employers upon dismissal.

“No matter who they are, the e-hailing drivers and food deliverers that you scold over late delivery, the mak ciks who sells you the early morning nasi lemak and the make-up artist for the bride that makes her even more radiant.

“Not to mention the freelance writers that writes endlessly for publications that will never publish them, theatre directors who go without meals for days and sex workers with bruises covered while waiting in unlighted alleyways.

“These are the people whose lives should have mattered but are facing neglect from the nation,” he lamented.

With that, Ahmad urged the Government to offer better social security safety net to those employed in the formal and informal sectors, instead of treating them like commodity in the nation’s economic wheel.

“Informal workers, particularly, are very much prominent in the gig economy. Their presence cannot be denied from society’s perception and their contribution to society itself is immeasurable.

“But when it comes to discrimination and abuses suffered by them, the authorities seem to just shrug them off.

“Why are we letting ourselves become oblivious to the blatant injustices, in a society that should be just to its members?” he queried.

More than 80 people took part in the various forums held by the PSM-led roadshow, which highlighted various issues such as minimum wage, climate change and others. – Oct 17, 2021.

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