All across the world, from Europe and Asia, to Africa and Latin Africa, the last three decades have witnessed the gradual and persistent retrenchment of state institutions, most especially in the realm of economics. Such seismic renegotiation in the relationship between the state and markets has been found upon a set of simplistic assumptions, namely the efficiency of markets as collective mechanisms of value-production and the rationality of individual market participants. Concerned with hyper-inflation and chronic budget deficit, proponents of market reform have called for the overhaul of national and international economic order, shifting the balance of power in favour of private business interests at the expense of public welfare and social cohesion. With the dismantling of regulatory structures -- designed to rein in the excesses of markets, and strike a balance between economic productivity and constitutional principles undermining the political order -- market liberalization has gone hand in hand with successive financial crises, which have, in turn, undermined the social fabric of many countries around the world.
From East Asia to Latin America and Eurasia, developing economies have been repeatedly battered by economic shocks, largely brought about by the dismemberment of regulatory institutions and the over-exposure of local economies to the vagaries of international trade and investment flows. The 2008 Great Recession proved that even the center-economies were not immune to the irrational drive of markets, which are mainly concerned with profit-maximization and capital-accumulation. Committed to driving the state to the peripheries, the markets have defanged its regulatory capacity and hollowed its welfare responsibilities. As a result, a growing number of people, especially the youth, have suffered from under-investment in education and healthcare; the incessant privatization of public goods and modes of production has led to a sustained assault on the most fundamental rights of ordinary citizens.
The George Town Conurbation (GTC) consists of the highly urbanised Penang Island, Seberang Perai, Sungai Petani, Kulim and the surrounding areas (see map). With a population of 1.6 million according to the National Cencus in 2000, it was the second-largest metropolitan area in Malaysia after the Kuala Lumpur conurbation (Klang Valley), which had a population of 4.9 million. Johor Bahru had 1.5 million. The population of the GTC is now estimated more than 2 million.
A conurbation is defined as “an urban area that encompasses several cities or towns physically agglomerated and forming a built up area through population growth”.
Decent work is central to acknowledge human rights and dignity at the workplace. Recent years have seen a worldwide erosion of decent working conditions: low job security, poor wages, lack of social protection and union representation. Worldwide, among the most vulnerable workers are migrant workers.
In 2013, the number of migrants globally hit an all-time record of 232 million, half of them are migrant workers. Asia makes up 25 percent of migrants worldwide, 30 million Asian workers are currently working abroad and trends predict a further increase. On the one hand, economic globalization and trade liberalization have destroyed numerous jobs and caused increased migration pressure. Job shortage, employment insecurity, poor wages as well as the absence of active labour market policies have accelerated the outflow of workers. Countries like the Philippines and Mexico showcase this correlation. On the other hand, the structure of the economy, labour and skills shortages and demographic changes are key factors that drive the demand for workers in receiving countries like Singapore or Germany.