PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s dominance in supplying global demand for condoms and rubber gloves could end if the freeze on foreign workers is not lifted.
Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers’ Association (MRPMA) warned the country risked export revenue which amounted to RM17.88bil in 2015, an increase of 18.6 % from 2014.
Rubber gloves contributed 72.8% of total exports valued at RM13.1bil.
Association president Datuk Dr Ong Eng Long said: “The Government must not abandon the goose which lays the golden eggs.”
A recent survey among MRPMA found almost 100% reporting factories running at below capacity due to worker shortages.
Ong said these factories could not fulfil existing orders and had to turn down new ones.
“Some will have to shut down production lines and face penalty for failure to meet order deadlines,” he added.
Malaysia supplied over 60% of the global demand for medical gloves and this is projected to expand between 8% and 10% annually.
But Ong said this expansion required workers which could not be obtained locally.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had on Feb 19, announced the suspension of intake of all foreign workers to Malaysia.
Ong pointed out that Thailand had set up Rubber City in the southern part of the country and was offering tax incentives to attract Malaysian manufacturers.
One of the respondents (of the survey) was seriously considering relocating.
Ong said the industry had a workforce of 75,000 with an estimated 60% or 45,000 being foreign workers.
Annually one-third or 15,000 foreign workers are sent back and replaced with new intakes.
MRPMA members have given the government’s Rehiring and Relocation Programme, which allows employers to legalise and employ undocumented workers, the thumbs down.
“More than 90% of manufacturers do not think the programme will be effective,” he said
Ong added that members who tried to hire foreign workers under the programme were told none were available.
He said there was a misconception that manufacturers preferred to employ foreign workers because they were cheaper.
“This is definitely not true. With all the processing and agency fees, transportation, levies, accommodation and wages, it is in fact more expensive to employ foreign workers.”
But he said manufacturers were forced to employ foreign workers because locals were not available, especially in the Klang Valley.
MRPMA suggested a quota of 30,000 foreign workers be made available to the rubber products industry over the next three years or an average of 10,000 foreign workers per year, in addition to the annual 15,000 workers to replace those who leave.
Ong said the association was ready to work with the authorities to implement these recommendations.
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