Are You Happy Working in Malaysia? Indonesian Migrant Workers ‘Experiences in Neighboring Penang Island of the Nusantara Malay Archipelago

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Mohammad Reevany Bustami, et. al.

Abstract

Indonesia and Malaysia are part of the world of Nusantara Malay Archipelago.  The historical facts show that for centuries long, the people of the Archipelago were roaming the seas and the lands in this Southeast Asian region during the pre-colonial period and in the process had helped in enriching it culturally and economically.  The human movement continues now but within a different context.  At present, many, if not most of them, travel to a so-called foreign country to work as the so-called migrant workers.  Yet, does this experience bring them happiness? This is the main inquiry of this research. In this article, as the authors report on the research findings and the analysis, they have also examined the awareness of regulations, the wages and working conditions, the cultural adaptation, the experience with agents as well as the social capital and networks of Indonesian migrant workers (PMIs). The methodology employs an abductive research strategy where the meanings and patterns of experiences are expressed through the insights of the migrant workers as social actors themselves. Three (3) focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with a total number of 27 informants who work in factories (local and foreign) as well as in construction, services, micro business and NGOs. The findings show that their happiness is associated with ten different ontological elements. Yet, arguably the highest state of emotion lies with the twin pillars of spiritual gratitude and familial-giving. The migrant workers or perantaus pursue these twin pillars, and happiness ensues.

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