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The Cost of Hope: Stories of Migrant Workers in Palm Oil Plantations in Malaysia

Malaysia produces 39 per cent of the world’s oil palm and 44 per cent of world exports according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, an industry body. The sector now occupies over 70 per cent of the country’s agricultural land, where 2.3 million hectares are used for oil palm cultivation in Peninsular Malaysia alone. Palm oil production employs almost half a million workers in Malaysia, of whom about 80 per cent are migrants, mainly from Indonesia, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Despite their significant contribution to one of Malaysia’s most prominent economic sectors, migrant workers in the country may be at risk of human rights abuses and exploitation. Forced labour practices such as debt bondage, deceptive recruitment processes, retention of passports and limited availability of or access to grievance mechanisms are some of the most commonly reported issues. Migrant workers may also face discrimination and stigma.

This report seeks to explore and understand the stories of the people who uprooted themselves and travelled to work in Malaysia in search for better lives for themselves and their loved ones. These stories retrace their steps, from their recruitment in their home countries to their destination in Malaysia, where they contributed to the well-being of the communities and the economy.

This report is also available in Bahasa Malay.



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