Polyethnic Societies and Industrial Relations

  • Charles Gamba


In South-east Asia today, labour issues are fundamental to all political ideologies. Political leaders of the right and left have used labour issues in their political speeches. Furthermore, the solution of the economic problem of labour, particularly of rural labour, has become the avowed aim of all their programmes; labour welfare measures have become the platforms of Asian pressure groups of every political shade.


Trade Union Collective Bargaining Industrial Relation Labour Movement Labour Department 
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  1. 1.
    Kangani is a Tamil (Southern India) word indicating a labour recruiter. The kangani was employed particularly to recruit labour for the plantations industry in Ceylon and Malaya between the end of the nineteenth and the early years of this century; see, e.g., C. Kondapi, Indians Overseas 1938–1949, New Delhi, 1951.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Vide also H. D. Fong, ‘Industrial Organisation in China’, Nankai Social and Economic Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 4, Tientsin, January 1937.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Comprador, from the Portuguese. Vide also, e.g., K. S. Latourette, The Chinese — Their History and Culture, pp. 458, 597, New York, 1946Google Scholar
  4. R. Wilhelm, Chinese Economic Psychology, New York, 1947.Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    J. H. Boeke, Economics and Economic Policy of Dual Societies as Exemplified by Indonesia, p. 6, New York, 1953.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    Work, as a concept, has not received much attention from economists. However, vide the interesting study by C. Gini, Patologia Economica, Turin (Italy), 1954.Google Scholar
  7. J. M. Dawson, ‘Traditional Values and Work Efficiency in a West African Mine Labour Force’, Occupational Psychology, Vol. 37, No. 3, London, July 1963.Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    Some pioneer studies on the subject of poverty in the developing areas are as follows: A. Azis, Some Aspects of the Malayan Rural Economy Related to Measures for Mobilising Rural Savings, Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, Paper E/CN,11/1 and T/WP.L/L 18, 1951. Also, by the same writer, certain articles in The Straits Times, Singapore, February 28 and March 1, 4 and 5, 1957, and Singapore Standard, July 8, 1958Google Scholar
  9. M. G. Swift, ‘The Accumulation of Capital in a Peasant Economy’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. V, No. 4, 1957Google Scholar
  10. C. Gamba, ‘Poverty and Some Socio-Economic Aspects of Hoarding, Saving and Borrowing in Malaya’, Malayan Economic Review, Vol. III, No. 2, Singapore, October 1958. For a more technical view, vide the informative and thoughtful paper presenting certain untested hypotheses concerning the nature of cost and supply curves for subsistence type agricultural production units byGoogle Scholar
  11. 2.
    Walter Galenson (ed.), Labor in Developing Economies, p. 9, Berkeley, 1962.Google Scholar
  12. J. K. Galbraith in Economic Development in Perspective, Harvard, 1962. Galbraith suggests that there are many stages of development, so that no valid common prescriptions can be given. It is necessary to discover how far to transmit ideas from more to less economically advanced countries. It is possible and dangerous for such transmission to be excessive or premature especially when thinking in terms of organization.Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    The practice of some employers playing one union against the other is well known in Asian areas. The game might take place with communist-led and non-communist unions with the employer using the large unemployed group as the winning card. The nature of the conflict of labour demand versus economic development requirements faced by governments in the developing areas, has been well described, e.g., by Felicia J. Deyrup, ‘Organized Labor and Government in Underdeveloped Countries: Sources of Conflict’, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, October 1958.Google Scholar
  14. 2.
    For wages in the rubber, tea, coconut and palm oil plantations of Malaya vide, e.g., C. Gamba, The National Union of Plantation Workers, Singapore, 1962.Google Scholar
  15. 3.
    Vide also State of Singapore, The Report by the (Gamba) Commission of Inquiry into the System of Contract Labour, Singapore, 1960. For quite a while the wages of certain sections of labour in Singapore and Malaya were related to the system of indented labour operating between India and Malaya and China and Singapore. In the case of Singapore the Chinese system of indented labour came aptly to be known as that of the ‘chu-tsai’ or piglets, implying that: ‘… the sale of coolies was akin to the sale of pigs …’. Vide W. L. Blythe, ‘Historical Sketch of Chinese Labour in Malaya’, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XX, Pt. I, Singapore, June 1947.Google Scholar
  16. 1.
    For the historical aspects of Chinese secret societies see, e.g., Latourette, op. cit. Also, e.g., Carl Glick and Hong Sheng Hwa, Swords of Silence, New York, 1947Google Scholar
  17. V. Purcell, The Chinese in Malaya, London, 1948Google Scholar
  18. G. Schlegel, Thian Ti Hwui, Reprint, Government Printer, Kuala Lumpur, 1957.Google Scholar
  19. These societies became a cancerous growth on an otherwise law-abiding community. At times they were used by the Malayan Communist Party, by politicians and trade-union leaders-politicians. Then the picture altered, and, particularly with non-Chinese trade union leaders in Malaya, there was concern that secret society elements should penetrate their unions. School youths were involved in the societies. For certain social aspects vide, e.g., J. Riley, Some Comments upon the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency in Singapore with Special Reference to Secret Society Membership, Department of Social Welfare, Singapore, 1963. For the evolution of the labour movement in Malaya to 1950, and certain connections with the secret societies, vide Google Scholar
  20. C. Gamba, The Origins of Trade Unionism in Malaya, Ch. I, Singapore, 1962.Google Scholar
  21. 1.
    Clark Kerr and others, Industrialism and Industrial Man, p. 19, Harvard, 1960.Google Scholar
  22. 1.
    For customary law, vide, e.g., B. ter Haar, Adat Law in Indonesia, New York, 1948.Google Scholar
  23. 1.
    For certain views on delegate legislation vide, e.g., C. K. Allen, Law and Orders, London, 1945. For examples of emergency regulations in Asia vide, e.g., Emergency Regulations Ordinance, No. 17, of 1948, Singapore, reprint, 1953; Federation of Malaya, Act of Parliament, No. 18 of 1960, Internal Security Act, 1960.Google Scholar

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© International Institute for Labour Studies 1966

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  • Charles Gamba

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