Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said on Thursday, “The Cabinet is lifting the freeze on hiring foreign workers for four sectors.”
The decision was made in light of appeals from the manufacturing, construction, plantation and furniture-making industries, which are facing a major shortage of workers.
On February 18, Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh to receive 1.5 million workers in stages over the next three years. But just after one month of MoU signing, on March 18, Malaysia banned the recruitment of new foreign workers.
And finally Malaysian news media The Star Online published the good news for 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers, “Four sectors allowed to hire foreign workers.”
“In view of the acute shortage, we have to lift the suspension to allow these sectors to bring in foreign workers,” said Malaysian Transport Minister Liow.
However, he said that the Cabinet was already looking to improve the system for hiring foreign workers, after which they would gradually lift the hiring freeze for other sectors too.
“On other sectors, we will go on a case-by-case basis, while waiting for the creation of a more foolproof, transparent and accountable system,” he added.
“Workers are important for the productivity of these sectors, so if employers face too many uncertainties in hiring workers, that will not go well for the nation’s economic growth,” he said.
Liow added that it would take time for the Government to engage with the various industries to better understand the situations that each sector faced.
However, he emphasised that it was important for the Government to regulate and have proper control over the hiring of foreign workers in Malaysia.
The Star reported recently that a survey by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers showed that 84% of manufacturers were facing a labour shortage, with half of them claiming that they had not been able to fulfil existing orders.
The survey showed 146 companies required 13,270 new workers this year to meet their business needs and replace unfit or returning workers.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the illegal foreign workers’ rehiring programme must be made more efficient to assist manufacturers, who were facing a manpower shortage due to the freeze on foreign workers since February.
Only 55,000 illegals have been rehired so far, out of the estimated 1.4 million said to be in the country.
Late last month, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that a decision on the freeze on foreign labour would be announced soon.