KUALA LUMPUR: The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has called on the government to lift the freeze on foreign workers recruitment for the manufacturing sector to support the pick-up in business and assist the industry’s recovery as orders and production start to gain momentum.
Its president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the federation also appeals for the government to allow the intake of foreign workers for export-based companies and export market supporting companies especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Over the past year, he said the manufacturing industry had to repatriate workers due to the expiration of their permits.
He said the workers had to remain in their home country when the global lockdown was instituted and have since not been allowed to re-enter Malaysia due to the pandemic and border closure.
"While the industry endeavours to fill those vacancies with locals, foreign workers are usually employed to fill up general operator-level jobs, which employers are finding difficulty to be filled by locals due to the nature of the job or industry and job expectations of locals,” he said in a statement today.
At the same time, he said manufacturers had started exploring more proactive deployment of digital and automation technologies to lower workers density in their operations, including reducing dependency on foreign workers.
However, he said the switch to more automated processes and adoption of digitalisation would take time and substantial investments and in the meantime, businesses had to continue to sustain and grow and thus, their labour requirements must continue to be supported.
He said the recovery initiative of manufacturers, especially exporters and supporting SME businesses, must continue to be backed with the necessary initiatives including support on manpower requirements, which could otherwise derail business recovery or land the industry in deeper problems when they are not able to fulfil their orders during this critical period.
"With that said, FMM has always advocated for the need for the industry to gradually reduce their dependence on foreign workers with the changing manufacturing landscape as well as for the nation to transition into a high-income economy.
"However in doing so, the government must have in place a more holistic, fair and transparent management and administration of foreign workers in order to facilitate this transition to take place gradually via a market-based mechanism which would serve as a natural mechanism for industries to re-evaluate their business models,” he added. - Bernama