PETALING JAYA: Business groups say a proposal by the government to allow foreign graduates of local higher education institutions to work in the country will not deprive Malaysian talents of job opportunities.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Syed Hussain Syed Husman said the proposal was only for sectors facing a talent shortage, with the policy intended to be for the short term only.
Syed Hussain said local graduates already have priority in employment across all economic sectors and that available vacancies can only be filled by foreign graduates if their local counterparts do not meet manpower requirements.
“There are many advantages if you think (about it) with an open mind.
“Having foreign graduates in our workforce over the short-term will create a competitive and exciting environment,” he told FMT, adding that it would be a quick fix to the talent shortage experienced in certain sectors.
He also said the country would be able to attract more international students to further their studies here if they were offered the prospect of employment.
Last month, investment, trade and industry minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said the government was mulling a proposal to allow foreign graduates of local higher education institutes to work in the country amid a talent shortage, especially in certain technologically advanced value-added sectors.
As an example, Tengku Zafrul said, the electrical and electronics sector requires some 50,000 engineers. However, Malaysia presently produces only about 5,000 engineers a year, excluding foreign graduates and Malaysians studying abroad, according to The Edge.
The proposal was criticised by both Cuepacs and former Umno leader Isham Jalil on grounds that it would lead to lower wages and a rise in unemployment among local graduates.
Meanwhile, SME Association of Malaysia president Ding Hong Sing told FMT the proposal was sure to benefit SMEs. Noting that developed nations regularly poached local talent from Malaysia, he suggested that the same strategy be implemented to attract foreign talent.
“The talent provided by this short-term policy can encourage domestic and foreign investors to invest here, and SMEs to venture into new fields,” he said.
Ding said there should not be any burdensome red tape and additional costs in the process of hiring these foreign graduates as the main objective was to solve the country’s labour shortage.
He said the post-graduation employment pass should offer a seamless transition from graduation to employment, and the wage structure for foreign talent should be on par with that of local graduates to prevent exploitation and disparities.
Ding also said Malaysia stands to join a number of advanced economies that allow graduating international students to work and contribute to their economies, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the UK.
Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (Samenta) president William Ng said the proposal, if implemented, would ease the “chronic talent crunch” in the engineering and technical fields.
Ng said Penang alone was short of 50,000 engineers and technicians, which has limited growth in the semiconductor, manufacturing and logistics industries. The problem was especially severe for SMEs as they have to compete with multinational companies to recruit talents.
“The number of international students in engineering and technical studies is less than 20,000. Even if a quarter of them graduate each year, and 10% choose to stay and work, that’s fewer than 700 engineers and technicians that we can absorb,” he said in a statement.
“It is preposterous, therefore, to say that this will disrupt job opportunities for locals.
“On the contrary, having this immediate pool of additional talent will help convince foreign and domestic investors to stay and expand their operations and, in turn, enlarge the economic and employment pie for Malaysians.”