PUTRAJAYA, May 1 ― Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reminded the nation's workforce that so-called 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) jobs may not pay well but were still honest work and vital to the nation’s development.

The prime minister was responding to the press about comments that local workers found pay for 3D work to be unattractive, after attending the National Labour Day Celebration here.

“It is a low salary but if they don't work, there's no salary at all. They have to choose. If they work, the will still get a salary,” said Dr Mahathir.

“If they don't work, other people (foreign workers) will work. Our many flows out of the country. We become poor and the unemployed have no income. We can't give free money like last time (under Barisan Nasional rule).”

When asked if his administration would ensure that employers paid higher salaries for the 3D jobs, the prime minister said it was not the government’s place to dictate pay levels in the private sector.

“We can't compel (employers to pay more) but we have to remember, we work for the nation, to develop our country. If we don't work, someone else will get our money and we will be at a loss,” he said.

Earlier during his speech, Dr Mahathir said the government was aware of concerns about the influx of foreign workers into the country.

He sought to assuage such concern by saying that the government has taken action to restrict foreign workers to only sectors unappealing to local workers, which are mainly the 3D jobs.

However, he also pointed out the reason so many foreign workers were in Malaysia was this same rejection of 3D work.

“But I must state that the presence of foreign workers in Malaysia is due to our own attitude ― refusing certain jobs even though we are capable of doing it.

“The opportunity is then grabbed by foreign workers. In the end, they become rich and we remain the same or become poor,” said Dr Mahathir.