KUALA LUMPUR: Business leaders have welcomed the Cabinet’s decision to implement a long-term solution for the foreign labour shortage.
Since the foreign worker intake freeze in February, small-and-medium enterprises (SME) have complained that their production has ground to a halt due to a lack of workers.
SME Association president Datuk Michael Kang said he hoped to see a blueprint to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign labour in the next five years.
“For example, we set a cap for six million foreign workers right now because that is the amount needed. Maybe by 2020, we reduce the cap to just five million.
“This is possible by increasing productivity with automation and by training more locals to take up skill-based jobs,” he said.
On Tuesday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said he would, together with Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, forward to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister the plight of vegetable, flower and poultry farmers facing a severe shortage of foreign workers.
Industry representatives told Dr Wee there was a shortage of 63,000 foreign workers in Pahang, Kedah, Johor and Perak.
The furniture-making industry also lacked foreign workers, said Kang.
“Factories are producing below their full capacity. Orders could not be met. This has severely affected business,” he said.
Kang urged the Government to legalise the estimated four million undocumented workers in the country to help ease the labour shortage immediately.
“To make sure the illegal worker problem does not arise again, we need tighter enforcement. Only a transparent and corruption-free system can achieve this,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments was Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Tan Sri K. Kenneth Eswaran, who called for policies which are “business friendly and transparent”.
Referring to the Government’s sudden freeze, Eswaran said the change was disruptive, abrupt and not market-friendly.
“We seek to have all the sectors that have the predominant need for foreign workers to be given approval on a ‘need basis’.
“We are certain that genuine companies with justifiable needs will be given the exact number of workers that they apply for. This matter can be verified with the sufficient documents relating to their business processes and audited accounts,” he said.
Eswaran thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for his commitment in finding a long-term solution to address the foreign labour shortage.
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