KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — Eight out of ten respondents in a survey conducted by Emir Research said they view migrants suspected of travelling without valid papers as a source of Covid-19 infection.
The finding was second in the list of seven major concerns related to the pandemic that is part of a quarterly poll held by the think tank.
Researchers said the survey’s goal was to assess the public’s “well-being, living conditions of the rakyat, and socio-economic and political issues.”
Over three quarters of respondents said they feared retrenchment the most, which the study found was particularly highest among the Bumiputera community in Sarawak and Sabah, the pandemic’s current epicentre.
This was followed by fear of what the study deemed as “illegal immigrants”. Human rights activists said the term is derogatory and is often a preferred label by right wing officials to divert attention from the state's incompetence in addressing the virus outbreak.
“More than 90 per cent of the Bumiputera Sabah and Sarawak exhibit the highest level of worry
in the top four pandemic-related worries with 95 per cent fearing losing jobs, followed by the threat of infection from illegal immigrants (94 per cent),” the report said.
Insufficient income and a drop in quality education were the third and fourth highest concerns among respondents, at 93 and 91 per cent respectively.
The level of worry varies according to ethnicities, with the Malays coming in second highest after the Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera in these four areas of concerns, all around 80s in percentages.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians were found to be less preoccupied about the same four concerns.
Still, a majority of them carried the same prejudice towards migrants as Covid-19 sources with up to 77 per cent of respondents from the latter community saying they fear getting infected from migrants, while 66 per cent of ethnic Indian respondents felt the same.
All ethnicities said losing their job was the top most concern.
The study also suggested that the urban-rural and educational level of disparity as having influence on the level of concerns displayed by respondents.
“The urbanites worry more than their rural counterpart over mental health caused by the pandemic — 75 per cent versus 64 per cent, a significant difference of 11 per cent,” researchers wrote in the report.
“So too are the higher educated, with 78 per cent worrying about mental health as compared to the holders of school certificates (66 per cent) — a significant 12 per cent difference,” they added.
These findings are then tabulated into the research house’s “National Worry Index” (NWI). Emir Research said the index calculates data extracted from the 12 questionnaires in its quarterly poll developed for its first survey.
The questionnaires are based on themes, or recurring descriptions and statements that emerge as the outcome of the focus group discussions that represent worrying issues, and respondents were asked to indicate their level of worry for each of these issues.
The poll found the overall NWI score to be at 0.79 when measured on a sliding scale of 0 to 1, with the higher number indicating a greater amount of worry.
Researchers said the number steps into the area of maximum worry based on the NWI scale bands, just one notch below the unhealthy level of 0.80 of maximum worry.
Their current NWI reading of 0.79 also worsened compared to the final quarter of 2019 (4Q19), at 0.77, prompting the think tank to conclude that the pandemic has worsened public anxiety, especially on the socio-economic front.
“We can therefore conclude the feeling of worry over socio-economic issues brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic-related worries for the average Malaysian has intensified over the period from the first quarter to third quarter of 2020,” they said.
The think tank said nearly all respondents in its survey have been consistent in wanting government action against inflation and reining in food prices.
“In general, a majority of Malaysians agree that all of the issues listed need to be addressedby the government, with the highest frequency of expectation placed on stabilising the price of basic necessities (88 per cent),” it said.
This was followed by the appeal for state intervention on the issue of supply and monopoly of rice, at 70 per cent.