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?
BY MELATI A. JALIL
Imposing full medical charges on non-citizens will reduce the foreign workforce as some companies mull sending migrant workers back due to the increasing cost of employing them, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said, following Putrajaya’s latest announcement.
He said the situation may not be as drastic as the 1998 financial crisis, when more than 800,000 migrant workers were sent home but pointed out that many companies were suffering financially at present, with revenues dropping as much as 40%.
“This may be the situation because the economy is not doing that well and, of course, some employers have already discussed with us steps that need to be taken in order to send back some of their foreign workers before the maturity of their contracts.
“(The) volume of businesses doesn’t justify keeping them any more,” Shamsuddin told The Malaysian Insider when asked about the impact on companies of the move to impose full medical charges on non-citizens.
“If they (employers) can’t cope (with the rising cost), they will reduce the numbers.” Healthcare is currently subsidised at all public hospitals and clinics, but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak when tabling Budget 2016 in Parliament on October 23 said the government would begin charging non-citizens the full cost of medical treatment from January 1.
Shamsuddin said all industries were affected by the increasing cost of employing foreign workers, given predictions of a gloomy economic outlook in 2016.
He also viewed the move to impose full medical charges as an attempt by government departments to make extra money out of those who employed foreign workers.
“That’s why MEF has been calling for just one agency to be involved in the employment of foreign workers so that there is no increase in charges on foreign workers.
“It is known that when it comes to employing foreign workers, there are so many government departments involved.”
He suggested that all matters pertaining to foreign workers be placed under the Human Resources Ministry.
“We appreciate that approval is currently with the Home Ministry, but once they are inside the country, it should be the Human Resources Ministry that manages them.
Currently we are managing foreign workers more in terms of security rather than human resource needs,” Shamsuddin added.
He also said that employers should be more stringent in sending their foreign workers to see doctors and this might lead to long-term undesirable effects, such as certain diseases not being detected or controlled.
Besides the increase in costs borne by employers, Shamsuddin said the move also did not help the country’s international image as Malaysia would be perceived as adopting discriminatory practices.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam said the government’s latest decision may boost locals’ employment, as companies will realise it would be costlier to employ foreigners.
“When you employ locals, minimum wage and other additional costs may cost you RM1,300 but recruiting a foreign worker is going to cost you about RM1,700, which will make employers think, why not employ local workers and pay less.
“It is good in that employers will not go for migrant workers as the first choice.”
He also said foreign workers should be given social security protection under Socso.
“There shouldn’t be any discrimination against foreign workers when Malaysian workers are covered under Socso,” he said.
He further called for non-discriminatory policies against foreign workers as they played a vital role in the Malaysian economy. – October 29, 2015.
Sourcet: The Malaysian Insider
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