PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is training skilled foreign workers but losing them to other countries due to bad work policies.
Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association of Malaysia (Rehda) president Fateh Iskandar Mohamed Mansor said many of the foreign workers came to the country without any skills and received training on the job.
“When they come here, they don’t have skills or experience, so we teach them.
“We make them bar benders, bricklayers, tile and roofing experts, and so on.”
But when their work visas expire, these skilled foreign workers have to leave.
Fateh said this was Malaysia’s loss as these workers could get jobs easily in other countries like Singapore due to their newly-acquired skills.
“Why not have a policy where we retain such workers on a contract basis for another seven to 10 years?”
According to the Immigration Department’s website, foreign workers in Malaysia are allowed to work here only for 10 years.
Those registered under the 6P programme are allowed to work here for only three years.
Fateh also said that efforts to repatriate foreign workers shouldn’t be rushed as the industry would suffer.
“The truth is we don’t have enough skilled workers for construction.
“You can’t be too hasty in making such decisions that would impact the industry on a large scale. The market would collapse,” said Fateh.
He said it was clear that Putrajaya needed to develop a comprehensive policy on foreign workers to better retain foreign talent in the construction industry.
In recent times, the government has cracked down on undocumented foreign workers in the country after giving employers six months to register their foreign workers under the Immigration Department’s e-card programme.
As of July 12, more than 3,000 undocumented foreign workers had been rounded up, including scores from construction sites across the country.
The e-card is a temporary identification document to replace valid travel documents and is issued free of charge.
Previously, Immigration Department director-general Mustafar Ali lamented that many employers had failed to register their workers under the programme.
On the issue of affordable homes, Fateh urged federal and state authorities to reduce compliance costs, such as conversion premiums, development charges and infrastructure contribution charges.
“We think these charges can be reduced. Developers should be given some form of incentive to build affordable homes.
“For example, if a developer is building affordable homes, the authorities can help by removing the goods and services tax (GST) on the materials needed for an affordable home project.”
Although the purchase of residential homes are not subject to the 6% GST, it is imposed on building materials and construction services.
Last month, Fateh had also complained that compliance costs, such as the new levy imposed on steel and land conversion costs by state governments, had affected prices of homes.