The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said restricting foreign workers to only the construction, agriculture and plantation sectors would further devastate other industries trying to recover from the movement control order (MCO). MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said sectors that are denied foreign workers will face acute manpower shortage, causing operations disruptions.

Of the two million registered foreign workers, less than 42% or 837,800 were employed in the construction, agriculture and plantation sectors, while the rest were in manufacturing (about 700,000), services (about 309,000) and domestic work (about 130,000). “It is most unfortunate that the government had not discussed the matter with stakeholders on such a major policy shift prior to the announcement in Parliament,” said Datuk Shamsuddin in a statement.

He said that the government would have to answer whether locals would be willing to take up the jobs after the foreign workers from the other sectors were repatriated. “Everyone knows that foreign workers are only allowed to be recruited after the employers have proven that there were no local workers available to fill up the vacancies. “Phasing out foreign workers is possible if done in stages and if it can be shown that locals are prepared to fill up the available vacancies currently occupied by foreign workers. “But it’s impossible to expect local workers to take up the positions vacated by foreign workers overnight,” he said.

Yesterday, Deputy Human Resources Minister Awang Hashim announced in the Dewan Rakyat that the government had decided to allow foreign workers to work in the construction, agriculture and plantation sectors while jobs in other sectors were to be filled by local workers.

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