Malaysia shuts door to all foreign workers – source countries confused

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Malaysia migrant workersThe Malaysian government in a sign of distress as a result of slowing economic growth and a tightening job market in the country surprisingly decided to temporarily suspend the intake of foreign workers from all source countries. The move is meant to give the government time to ascertain the actual manpower needs of industries and to encourage its own people to work in jobs previously taken by labour migrants.

The public gave a split reaction to the February 19 announcement: While it was cheered by many, it was heavily criticised by employers. Uproar was significant particularly within several civil and trade groups, which urged the government to legalise the existing migrants instead.

The math behind the ban is as follows: The 11th Malaysia Plan sets a ceiling of 15 per cent for foreign workers in the country, about 2.3 million out of the total of 15.3 million of the country’s workforce. Last year, there were 2.135 million documented foreign workers in the country which is in line with the plan.

However, according to Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Jaem, for every ten legally documented workers, there are eight illegal workers in the country, adding some 1.7 million additional people to the foreign workforce which clearly exceeds the set limit.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress Secretary-General N. Gopal Kishnam even estimates that foreign workers make up about 30 to 35 per cent of the entire workforce.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government will step up enforcement to ensure that no more foreigners entered the country as workers.

“Foreign workers without valid documents or those who have overstayed in the country will be arrested and sent back to their country of origin,” he said, adding that “the suspension will be in force until the government is satisfied with the manpower needs of the industries. We urge all employers to recruit local workers.”

While the call to hire more locals sounds good in theory, it is mostly so-called “3D jobs” (dirty, difficult, dangerous) that are done by foreign workers, namely from Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, and which most Malaysians do not truly aspire.

Some source countries expressed their confusion about Malaysia’s long-term labour policy. Just on February 18, Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh to bring 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers over the next three years to Malaysia to work in the service, construction, farming, plantation and manufacturing sectors, this in addition to the 600,000 Bangladeshis who already work in Malaysia’s factories and plantations and on construction sites.

But the freeze announcement clearly contradicts the MoU, leading to accusations of a flip-flop policy as it now remains unclear whether Malaysia will really facilitate the plan. While the human resources minister was quick to emphasise that the decision to freeze all recruitment of foreign workers “does not affect” the validity of the MoU signed with Bangladesh, he added that the Malaysia government will announce “further details” on its decision shortly.

Meanwhile, the Nepali government said that it does not fear adverse impact for its labour migrants, saying that”very few Nepali workers” are actually willing to take jobs in Malaysia due to heavy recruitment costs, low pay and a weak ringgit. Currently, around 700,000 Nepalis are documented to work in Malaysia. The number of work permits obtained in 2015 was down 70 per cent over 2014, though.

 

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Malaysian government in a sign of distress as a result of slowing economic growth and a tightening job market in the country surprisingly decided to temporarily suspend the intake of foreign workers from all source countries. The move is meant to give the government time to ascertain the actual manpower needs of industries and to encourage its own people to work in jobs previously taken by labour migrants.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Malaysia migrant workersThe Malaysian government in a sign of distress as a result of slowing economic growth and a tightening job market in the country surprisingly decided to temporarily suspend the intake of foreign workers from all source countries. The move is meant to give the government time to ascertain the actual manpower needs of industries and to encourage its own people to work in jobs previously taken by labour migrants.

The public gave a split reaction to the February 19 announcement: While it was cheered by many, it was heavily criticised by employers. Uproar was significant particularly within several civil and trade groups, which urged the government to legalise the existing migrants instead.

The math behind the ban is as follows: The 11th Malaysia Plan sets a ceiling of 15 per cent for foreign workers in the country, about 2.3 million out of the total of 15.3 million of the country’s workforce. Last year, there were 2.135 million documented foreign workers in the country which is in line with the plan.

However, according to Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Jaem, for every ten legally documented workers, there are eight illegal workers in the country, adding some 1.7 million additional people to the foreign workforce which clearly exceeds the set limit.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress Secretary-General N. Gopal Kishnam even estimates that foreign workers make up about 30 to 35 per cent of the entire workforce.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government will step up enforcement to ensure that no more foreigners entered the country as workers.

“Foreign workers without valid documents or those who have overstayed in the country will be arrested and sent back to their country of origin,” he said, adding that “the suspension will be in force until the government is satisfied with the manpower needs of the industries. We urge all employers to recruit local workers.”

While the call to hire more locals sounds good in theory, it is mostly so-called “3D jobs” (dirty, difficult, dangerous) that are done by foreign workers, namely from Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, and which most Malaysians do not truly aspire.

Some source countries expressed their confusion about Malaysia’s long-term labour policy. Just on February 18, Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh to bring 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers over the next three years to Malaysia to work in the service, construction, farming, plantation and manufacturing sectors, this in addition to the 600,000 Bangladeshis who already work in Malaysia’s factories and plantations and on construction sites.

But the freeze announcement clearly contradicts the MoU, leading to accusations of a flip-flop policy as it now remains unclear whether Malaysia will really facilitate the plan. While the human resources minister was quick to emphasise that the decision to freeze all recruitment of foreign workers “does not affect” the validity of the MoU signed with Bangladesh, he added that the Malaysia government will announce “further details” on its decision shortly.

Meanwhile, the Nepali government said that it does not fear adverse impact for its labour migrants, saying that”very few Nepali workers” are actually willing to take jobs in Malaysia due to heavy recruitment costs, low pay and a weak ringgit. Currently, around 700,000 Nepalis are documented to work in Malaysia. The number of work permits obtained in 2015 was down 70 per cent over 2014, though.

 

 

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