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?
KINIBIZ The government has started preliminary discussions on allowing roughly several hundred thousand foreign labourers to stay beyond the expiry of their current employment under the 6P whitening programme.
Sources told KINIBIZ that the discussion may aim to retain foreign workers under a new form though a lot of details have yet to be finalised. However, it will likely involve fees for each foreign worker whose permit is renewed, said sources.
This development follows a one-year extension granted by the Home Ministry in end-2014 to foreign labourers who were originally due to depart Malaysia by Jan 5, 2015.
However, the Home Ministry extension was only granted to 352,493 foreign workers, reported Bernama. In contrast there were about 503,000 foreign workers slated to leave by Jan 5, 2015.
When announcing the extension last year, secretary-general of the Home Ministry Alwi Ibrahim said businesses should plan for the departure of these foreign workers and that “there will be no more extension”.
This warning follows a previous statement in October 2014 by then-deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who at the time chaired the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers, saying that the whitening of illegal foreign workers under the 6P programme would not be extended.
The 6P programme was an amnesty programme aimed at resolving the issue of illegal foreign workers as well as those who overstayed their work permits. It began registering and legalising foreign labourers in October 2011.
According to past news reports, the programme has legalised 521,734 illegal foreign labourers who were allowed to be employed legally for three years for approved sectors or two years for frozen and outside policy sectors.
The outside policy sectors include croupier, mining/quarrying, mangrove wood, stall/cafe/canteen/catering, restaurant, fast food, grasscutter, newspaper vendor, house and vehicle cleaners and car workshop workers.
The frozen sectors are scrapmetal, cargo handling, welfare home, spa/reflexology, hotel, golf caddy, laundry, barber, goldsmith, wholesale and retail and textile business.
According to the Department of Statistics’ 2013 Labour Force Survey, foreign workers make up 13.4% of the national workforce or approximately 2.4 million foreign workers across various industries.
However, the number of illegal foreign workers may be close to or equivalent to that figure, said construction industry players before. Roughly a fifth of the registered foreign workforce are in construction at 423,000 in year 2013, according to Bank Negara Malaysia’s Annual Report 2013.
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