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 Mayuri Mei Lin
KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — There are fewer foreign workers looking to work in Malaysia after employers here gained a reputation of ignoring their welfare, the Home Ministry said today.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said Malaysian employers often left the welfare of foreign workers from the Phillipines and Indonesia to their agents.
“At the same time, it also seems that the number of foreign workers wanting to come to Malaysia from various countries has reduced because…employers in Malaysia no longer give good treatment to foreign workers from various countries,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.
“We see foreign workers from Nepal reducing, also from the Philippines and Indonesia going down because they can find jobs elsewhere that give them better treatment.
“Employers don’t want to be held accountable for the welfare of foreign workers and they prefer to get the services of the agents that provide these foreign workers and most of the time, these are illegal workers,” he added.
He was responding to a question by Sekijang MP Anuar Abd Manap, who asked the Home Ministry for an update on the rehiring of foreign workers as well as the ratio of foreign labour to local employees set by the government.
Jazlan said that the ratio varied by sector, but noted that foreign workers should make up approximately 20 per cent of the workforce.
He also noted, however, that Malaysian employers were still dependent on foreign labour even though they could upgrade the technology of their operations.
“One problem in Malaysia is the tendency for employers to be dependent on foreign labour even in sectors that are high-tech, they don’t want to upgrade the process and also the way their businesses run which reduces dependency on foreign workers.
“This is [the] main problem faced by the ministry because it encourages unhealthy activities like the actions of agents that actually provide this service, of bringing in foreign workers, to these employers,” he said.
On May 12, Putrajaya announced that four sectors will be exempted from the moratorium on foreign labour announced in February by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
These four sectors are construction, manufacturing, plantation and furniture.
Local industries previously said the freeze had hurt their operations, with up to 80 per cent saying they were affected.
The government is prioritising the rehiring of illegal foreign workers during the freeze, where employers are allowed to get valid work permits for such staff, but only 55,000 out of an estimated 1.4 million have been rehired to date.
Source: Malay Mail Online
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