Malaysia’s Human Resources Ministry announced Monday, that there will be no new intake of foreign workers in all sectors until the end of the year. Human Resources Minister, Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said priority will be given to locals to fill up job vacancies. “We will not allow new foreign workers until year-end. He pointed out that currently there are about two million foreign workers in the country. Datuk Seri Saravanan said the ministry would evaluate the move by year-end to see if it was effective in helping the locals.
In a related development, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has voiced its disagreement over Putrajaya’s move to allow the hiring of illegal migrants under detention. Congress secretary-general J.Solomon said the move is counter-productive and is at odds with the move by the Human Resources to freeze the recruitment of foreign workers. Commenting on the Ministry’s move to freeze recruitment of foreign workers, Solomon said, “overall, MTUC sees this as a positive move that will help to check Malaysia’s over dependency on unskilled migrant labour and open the doors for a comprehensive review on the need to improve salaries and benefits to encourage Malaysians to take over jobs traditionally filled by foreigners.” Sadly, he said on the same day, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin announced another measure involving migrant labour, in that employers may be allowed to recruit illegal migrants held at Immigration detention centres. “Hamzah’s statement is reckless and counter-productive to the Human Resources efforts to reduce foreign workers and help reduce unemployment among Malaysians, a problem that is worsening due to the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.” In proposing to allow employers to hire workers from Immigration detention centres, the Home Ministry appears to be working in silo and is at odds with MoHR’s policy to reduce the growing number of migrant workers in the country, Solomon said.
He said government policies must focus on discouraging millions of foreigners from entering the country illegally to work, therefore reducing the massive outflow of funds from the country’s shores annually and prod employers into offering better terms to hire Malaysians. Solomon said the Home Ministry’s proposal is neither practical nor fair as any offer to legalise must cover all undocumented workers, not just a select few. “Every undocumented worker should have the right to be legalised. Otherwise we will be considered as discriminating foreign workers and once again make international headlines for the wrong reasons,” he said.
Solomon added that it is better for the government to focus on implementing the proposal to freeze the intake of foreign workers to address local unemployment and reduce the country’s dependence on migrant labour. “This policy by itself will not be effective if employers are allowed to hire foreigners who have been detained. Instead, attention should be centered on tighter enforcement to stop human trafficking rings from smuggling foreign workers into the country,” he said. In freezing the recruitment of foreign workers until year-end, he said the MoHR must do more to compel employers to woo Malaysian workers by offering decent wages and benefits. Solomon claims that Malaysia has about six million migrant workers in the country with more than half of them undocumented. They remain as employers’ first choice for hire unless there is government intervention to compel them to recruit local workers.
On Datuk Seri Saravanan’s remarks that 40,000 jobs will be created within six months for Malaysians made jobless because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said the onus is on the government to ensure that these Malaysians do not get short-changed or exploited by employers looking to hire workers on the cheap. “The MoHR’s freeze on foreign workers recruitment must be balanced with the need to ensure local workers are given decent wages and benefits. Only by doing so, can the government gradually reduce its over dependence on migrant workers and stem the flow of illegal’s into our shores”. Otherwise, he said the government might find itself in a position of being unable to provide the labour needed by the vital sectors of the economy because there are not enough migrant workers for jobs shunned by locals due to employers insistence to continue offering meagre salary and poor benefits.