Doing away with highly-skilled expats will hit us badly, say employers

There is a high demand for skilled labour in many labour-intensive industries. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Cancelling employment passes of new and existing expatriates in the country will bring adverse effects, employer groups warned today.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Soh Thian Lai said Malaysia is unable to cope with the high demand for skilled labour in many labour-intensive industries.

Soh said the country needs time to train local employees to be skilled in certain industries, especially the automation and robotics industry.

Last week, the government announced plans to stop foreign workers from holding jobs paying less than RM10,000 to pave the way for Malaysians.

The government is considering the abolition of the Category II (salaries between RM5,000 and RM10,000) and Category III (salaries below RM5,000) employment passes given to expatriate workers.

Soh told FMT any decision on this matter should be put on hold because many industries needed these foreign workers.

He gave the example of Middle East students pursuing postgraduate studies in local universities who have high technical skills which locals lack.

“These Middle East students do not want to go back to places like Syria or Iraq where there are no manufacturing or design engineering jobs which fit their skills,” Soh said.

He said if Malaysia does not absorb such talent, other countries would readily do so and it would be Malaysia’s loss.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) agreed with Soh saying industries with foreign employees in Category II would be affected the most.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said expatriates get jobs locally because of their “special” skills.

“Those skills, especially in the technical field, may not be available locally,” said Shamsuddin to FMT.

He said there is a marked skills mismatch between the job market and local graduates.

“We have about a half million unemployed locals and 200,000 are graduates. These people don’t have the required technical skills,” said Shamsuddin.

However, he welcomed the proposal to do away with Category III lower-paid expatriates, saying more opportunities would then be created for fresh graduates and there would be less competition.