Singapore, Dec 9 (UNI) Ethnic Indians in Malaysia had achieved progress in various fields in the past 50 years, although more needed to be done to make them competitive in the face of globalised realities, Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) stated today.
More than 80 per cent of the ethnic Indians had relocated to urban centres in the country, compared with six per cent of them having lived and worked in plantation estates before.
''This shift has provided a better income base for Indian families in Malaysia,'' Malaysian national news agency Bernama quoted MIC President S Samy Vellu as saying.
About 847,900 Malaysian Indians were currently in the workforce, while the unemployment rate was 3.1 per cent, he said.
In a bid to defuse tension between the authorities and ethnic Indians following their November 25 protest rally on being allegedly marginalised in their adopted country, Mr Vellu pointed out that professionals and managers accounted for 11.5 per cent of the workforce, while associate professors, lecturers and nurses constituted 19.4 per cent. The sales personnel 22.9 per cent, agriculture labourers 4.9 per cent, craft and trade workers 9.4 per cent, machine operators 20.1 per cent and elementary workers 16.3 per cent.
Mr Vellu, who is also a senior Cabinet Minister in the ruling coalition of Barisan Nasional, conceded that 2.9 per cent of Indian households lived below the poverty line.
The mean monthly household income of Indian families was 3,456 ringgit (Malaysian dollar) compared to the national figure of 3,022 ringgit.
As many as 46,054 Indians or 5.12 per cent were employed in the public sector and 3,642 or four per cent were in the police force.
''Compare these figures with the percentage of the Indian population in Malaysia, which is at eight per cent,'' he said.
Mr Vellu assured that the MIC was now focusing on getting more Indians employed in the civil service and looking into the promotional prospects of those already in the service.
Referring to the participation of Indians in the economy, he said there had been a slow increase in the present 1.2 per cent ownership of share capital of limited companies because many Indians believed in investing in properties and not in the share market.
Some 5,000-20,000 ethnic Indians had held a protest rally on November 25, alleging that they were left out of Malaysian economic development.
''It has become a political issue for Barisan Nasional, with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi trying to resolve it before next year's general election,'' diplomatic observers said.