Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
PUTRAJAYA: Employers’ urgent need for foreign workers get two important boosts from the Government in a move to keep businesses moving.
Firstly, employers are allowed to continue hiring their existing illegal foreign workers by applying temporary work passes for them.
Secondly, the green light has also been given to four sectors – poultry, mining and quarry, cargo handling at ports and tourism – to hire foreign workers.
These decisions were made after the Cabinet committee on foreign workers and illegal immigrants reviewed the effects of worker shortage on the economy.
He said the lower number of foreign workers last year had caused significant decline in exports.
“We were informed that productivity was affected because employers face shortage of workers.
“This decision will allow employers to boost their production and we hope the economy and the export sector will benefit from it,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Last week, The Star highlighted that many employers in affected sectors such as restaurant operators were having problems running their businesses due to the lack of workers.
This, has even prompted some to stop operations.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said the move would also bring income to the Government as employers would have to pay levy to renew the temporary passes annually.
“We will also be able to monitor foreigners who are in this country because everything about them will be documented,” he added.
The passes will be issued by the Immigration Department and employers can start applying for the temporary card once the Attorney-General’s Chambers has sorted out the legal processes.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said the committee also agreed to the request for foreign workers by the poultry, mining and quarry, port and tourism sectors as they could not find Malaysians interested in the job which was deemed as 3D (dirty, difficult and dangerous).
“While we will allow quarry and mining sectors to employ foreigners up to 2020, port operators are to give the supervisory position in cargo handling to Malaysians. That’s a must.
“They can only hire foreigners to do general duties,” he said.
To help boost tourism, the committee has extended the temporary permission to hire foreigners till end of 2020 for those operating spas and reflexology centres, hotels, island resorts and male golf caddies.
“We have also received requests from other sectors. We will not give blanket permission for them to hire foreign workers but will make consideration case by case,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
In February last year, the Government announced the freezing of fresh intakes of foreign workers.
However, the Cabinet later agreed to relax the ruling to allow critical sectors – manufacturing, construction, plantation, vegetable, fruits and flower farming – to hire foreigners.
The Deputy Prime Minister gave the assurance that Malaysians would continue to be given priority to gain employment and more skills and training programmes would be made available to meet the market’s needs.
Companies were encouraged to look into automation to reduce dependency on foreign help as the target for beyond 2020 was to only have 15% foreigners in the country’s workforce, he added.
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