Foreign worker ban puts productivity at stake, Putrajaya told

Foreign workers are generally hired for operator-level jobs which locals are reluctant to take up.

PETALING JAYA: The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has appealed to the government to refrain from imposing a blanket ban on the hiring of foreign workers, saying it will stifle the expansion of some industries.

Commenting on an announcement that there will be a freeze on the intake of foreign workers in all sectors, FMM president Soh Thian Lai called for flexibility so that labour requirements could be met in case of rises in global demand for certain Malaysian products.

Speaking to FMT, he called for smooth procedures to hire foreign workers in such cases.

He also said companies would start exploring digital and automation technologies to lower worker density but added that success would take time.

Human Resources Minister M Saravanan said on Monday that there would not be any new intake of foreign workers in all sectors until the end of the year to enable Malaysians to fill up job vacancies.

A week ago, the statistics department said unemployment in April spiked to 5%, the highest figure in 30 years.

Foreign workers are generally hired for operator-level jobs, which Soh said Malaysians were reluctant to take up.

He alleged that there was a high rate of absenteeism and turnovers when it came to Malaysian workers despite their higher wages. They expected better working environments and were unwilling to work overtime or on shifts, he added.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said the freeze was reasonable provided there were no sudden surges in demand for local products.

He told FMT it should not be enforced on industries needing to increase production in a hurry and on sectors facing acute manpower shortage, such as the plantation sector.

“The plantation sector has complained of a lack of workers they used to get from Indonesia and Bangladesh,” he told FMT.

He suggested that retrenched foreign workers be redeployed to sectors needing manpower.

Soh agreed, saying Putrajaya might need to adjust its policy according to demand.

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