Protecting the Rights of Migrant Workers through Empowerment and Advocacy in Malaysia

Project Duration
November 2015
December 2026
Funding and Year

The project builds the capacity of workers’ organizations or other civil society organizations to assist foreign migrant workers in Malaysia.

The Problem

Malaysia is a major destination country for migrant labor in Asia. The number of migrant workers in Malaysia with regular status is nearly 2 million, and there are a significant number of workers with irregular status. As with most destination countries in the region, labor migration in Malaysia is managed through temporary programs, and primarily for "low-skilled" work, sometimes characterized as ‘3D’ - dirty, dangerous and degrading. There have been many abuses faced by migrant workers in Malaysia, committed by recruitment agencies and employers, ranging from excessive recruitment fees, to serious violations of the terms and conditions of employment, among others. These highlight the gaps between existing labor laws and policies and their implementation, and, likewise, differential treatment of nationals and migrant workers.

Our Strategy

The project’s goal is to build the capacity of workers’organizations or other civil society organizations to assist foreign migrant workers in Malaysia. The project will achieve its goal primarily by accomplishing the following objectives:

1. Improved education of foreign migrant workers regarding their individual and collective rights; and

2. Improved advocacy on behalf of foreign migrant workers.

Although the government has made efforts, and representations of additional steps in the future, to address the problems faced by foreign migrant workers, the gaps in the law and its application noted above continue to make it difficult for workers to claim their legal rights. Thus, it is critical for workers’ organizations and other civil society organizations to further build their capacity to educate foreign migrant workers about their individual and collective labor rights and to advocate on their behalf to help them secure those rights.

Trade unions, civil society organizations (CSOs) and migrant associations will be capacitated to better support migrant workers in calculating and claiming their wages. The geographical scope for organizing and the delivery of support services to migrant workers will be extended to Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia and include manufacturers of rubber gloves, plantations, and electronics sectors.


The project's target groups include trade unions, civil society organizations and migrants’ associations in Malaysia, including the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Tenaganita, CARAM Asia and the Malaysian Bar Council.

International Labor Organization (ILO)
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4900 / Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA)
Capacity Building
Migrant Labor