‘Minah Kilang’ now a lucrative career optionSeptember 06, 2016
In the 80s, ‘minah kilang’ was a popular term as many women in that era migrated from villages to the cities and end up as factory workers.
It was a common view every morning and evening for blue factory buses to wait for the white or blue uniformed workers by roadsides.
The manufacturing sector is generally known for not requiring a high education level or for having simple test interviews for admission, but resulting in a reasonable income.
However, those involved in the manufacturing sector has always been blamed for social problems among workers, low wages and gender discrimination in higher level positions.
It was common for 20 people who were all factory workers to inhabit one single house unit. Convenience and welfare at the time was less emphasized, causing many workers to often switch from one factory to another.
This was many years ago. The manufacturing sector now has undergone a more advanced transformation towards providing a work space that not only offers lucrative salaries, but also better employee welfare.
The manufacturing industry has emerged as a major contributor to economic sectors in Malaysia and is the largest industry which provides employment to women (Women’s Studies in the Labour Malaysia by UNDP 2013).
However, due to various factors, the female labor force is still low as an estimated 37 percent only are classified as skilled workers.
Back then, most women factory workers were demoralized by the lack of infrastructure facilities such as dormitories, cafeterias and child care centers.
Nur Hasrifa Hamzah, 35, a Senior Supervisor of Production at one of the Flex factories in Malaysia said that the manufacturing sector now not only provides plenty of opportunities including the potential of progressing to higher levels of management in a short term, but the conducive work atmosphere and culture allow women workers to highlight their credibility.
She, who has a family of her own, started as an ordinary operator when stepping into the factory 17 years ago.
She had never imagined being in her current management position, and had at first wanted to stop working because of the constraints of balancing work and domestic life.
“Here, promotion opportunities are available every two years and there is no discrimination against gender, because everything depends on the individual achievements and abilities the workers demonstrated in carrying out their respective duties.
“In fact, working hours are flexible to accommodate those who have to work overtime, in addition to hostel facilities for those who are married,” she said.
Almost a majority of factory workers use the manufacturing sector as a jumping board before pursuing a career in their other fields of interest.
Nur Hasrifa disagrees with this carefree attitude towards jobs in the manufacturing sector.
“Quitting work or switching factories on short notice may cause a halted development among factory workers. It may also prevent them from being given further career opportunities as the management will not able to assess their abilities,” she explained.
Changes in the environment of the manufacturing sector towards a more sustainable management help the sector to continue being a favourite career choice among Malaysians, especially women.
According to the General Manager Management Department of Local Operators for Flex (Malaysia), Hasifah Wati Harun, 43, women are crucial in the manufacturing sector especially for complex work involving the installation of small components, which are often less favored by male workers.
This attention to detail in complex tasks are among the reasons why it is easier for women to be promoted to top management positions in a factory.
According to Hasifah, modern factories now provide infrastructure facilities such as child care centers, cafes, relaxing lounge and comfortable and spacious places for prayer.
In fact, she explained, each employee is given a space to voice their grievances and are solved more efficiently by employers.
“We do not want people and fresh graduates especially to still regard becoming factory workers as a desperate and last resort because the field is also like other careers that can help improve the economy,” she concluded.