PUTRAJAYA: The number of Bangladeshi workers to be hired here will depend on the demand by employers but it is not 1.5 million as reported, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot said.
He said the 1.5 million was the number of Bangladeshis who had registered with their country’s Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment to seek jobs abroad in 139 countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
“The perception that 1.5 million workers will be brought in from Bangladesh to work in Malaysia is not correct. It is not true,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Riot said any recruitment of Bangladeshi workers would be based on the demand of employers from sectors allowed to hire foreigners, subject to the principle of demand and supply.
He hoped the clarification would allay concerns that a huge number of foreigners, particularly from Bangladesh, were on their way to Malaysia.
As of December last year, there were 2,135,035 documented foreign workers in the country, of which 282,287 were from Bangladesh.
A total of 109,743 were working in the construction sector, 104,311 in manufacturing, 32,609 in services, 21,253 in plantations and 14,371 in the agriculture sector.
Riot said Malaysian employers were in fact hiring more Indonesians (828,283) and Nepalese (526,922) compared to Bangladeshis.
On Thursday, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Putrajaya and Dhaka to allow male and female Bangladeshi workers to be brought into the service, construction, farming, plantation and manufacturing sectors.
He said the MoU was similar to that signed between Malaysia and Indonesia, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
“The MoU does not stipulate the number of workers to be brought in. Like what was previously signed, this MoU is good for five years and is subject to review after the period,” he added.
Employers who want to get workers from Bangladesh would have to log in their application through an online system known as Bangladesh Workers Management System managed by the Home Ministry.
On complaints of a monopoly, Riot gave his assurance that “there would be no element of monopoly whatsoever” in the Government to Government Plus mechanism, adding that it was stipulated in the MoU that Malaysia would ensure transparency and fairness of the online system for the selection of agencies and distribution of quotas.
The minister said that despite demands for foreign workers, the Government was determined to maintain the policy where foreigners should only represent 15% of the country’s total workforce, which today stands at 15.5 million.
He said that based on the 2.1 million registered foreign workers, it was still below the cap.
However, Riot agreed that the actual situation could be different because of undocumented foreigners working here.
According to records, for every 10 foreigners working legally in Malaysia, there were an estimated eight undocumented workers.
This means that the estimated number of illegal foreign workers is about 1.7 million.
“To tackle this, the Government will take on measures such as enforcement and deportation of illegal foreign workers.
“We will also encourage companies to look into automation to reduce dependency on foreign labour and get them to hire locals, which has always been the Government’s emphasis,” he added.