Malaysia needs to fix foreign labour shortage: National Recovery Council

Labour-intensive industries such as the manufacturing, tourism, construction and retail sectors, were also affected by the labour shortage issue.


Bountiful supply: A file photo of a foreign worker harvesting oil palm fruits in an oil palm plantation in Banting, Selangor. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

November 1, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR – The shortage of foreign workers must be resolved soon, given that the actual arrival of foreign labour in Malaysia is too low compared with the amount of levies already paid, says the National Recovery Council (MPN).

MPN chief executive officer Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob said the quota approval and levy payment statistics as of Sept 12 recorded approval for 467,223 workers from the quota, but only 76,000 labour entries from 12 countries were recorded for the same period.

“That figure is too small compared to the levies already paid. Therefore, we want the Home Ministry and the Human Resources Ministry to review the process of hiring foreign workers because many sectors have a very high level of dependency.

“We found that many workers applied and made payments, but there were fewer people arriving. The question is, why haven’t they come? Does it involve their country’s problems or some other reason? This point needs to be emphasised, otherwise the agriculture sector, especially oil palm, will continue to suffer from worker shortages,” he told Bernama in a recent media briefing.

He explained that labour-intensive industries such as the manufacturing, tourism, construction and retail sectors, including the electronics and agriculture sectors, were also affected by the labour shortage issue. In addition to the workforce issue, Sulaiman said investment and trade as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (PMKS) also need to be prioritised in the country’s recovery process.

He said Malaysia needs to encourage more investments because they offer people job opportunities, while trade ensures the country’s economic recovery continues as our economy depends on global trade.

“In the context of the affected supply chain, many export activities have been disrupted. However, in this recovery process, we see that Port Klang’s performance has improved.

“They are ready and able to attract cargo to our ports. The port sector really helps us increase exports,” he said.

In terms of the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and PMKS, Sulaiman said that these groups need special attention from the government because they are the backbone of the country’s domestic investment.

“SMEs and PMKS are the worst affected by the pandemic compared with multinational companies that can move to other countries with lower labour costs.

“For that reason, we have to focus on SMEs and PMKS as we want them to develop into mid-level companies and to support multinational companies and later global industry players,” he said.

He said the cooperation of the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC), the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) is the best combination to drive the country’s economy.

“MPC can work with PMKS to increase productivity while MIDA encourages investment and Matrade helps expand markets overseas. This is the best combination to drive the national economy,” he said.

Commenting on the proposal for a special moratorium on SMEs, Sulaiman hopes that the government that will be formed will take a deeper look at the issue as SMEs are a critical component in the country’s economic growth. Besides that, MPN also emphasises the issue of food safety in ensuring that the country’s population’s food resources are at an optimal level.

“In 1970, we had the Buku Hijau (Green Book) plan to increase agricultural production. If possible, for the long term, we must reduce food imports, not only from the perspective of self-sufficiency but also food security,” said Sulaiman.

Therefore, he urged the state governments to cultivate their agricultural land to produce food while avoiding dependence on imported materials.

Meanwhile, Sulaiman also disclosed that MPN has presented 95 proposals in total, with 86 proposals having been approved by the Cabinet while nine are still awaiting a decision.

Of that number, 69% are related to issues such as health, economic and social, while 26% are related to management and administration matters.

“Out of the 69%, 16 recommendations (23%) have been completed, 30 recommendations (43%) are still being implemented, and 14 recommendations (20%) have yet to be implemented,” he said.

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