PETALING JAYA: The move by the government to lower the extension levy fees for foreign workers has been lauded as a “win-win” situation for the nation’s economy although there are still some concerns among industry players.
SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang described it as a “win-win” situation for some 10,0000 small and medium businesses (SMEs) and the government.
“It is a good move as this would mean higher productivity among SMEs which were facing difficulties replacing their experienced and skilled foreign workers.
“Higher productivity from SMEs would mean more export revenue for the government,” he said when contacted yesterday.
He said the move was also timely as there was currently a labour shortage of between 30% and 40% out of the estimated two million workforce employed by SMEs.
“Some SMEs were forced to close shop as they were unable to take orders owing to a lack of workers.
“This was the recent case where labour officers visiting an SME in Sungai Buloh were surprised to learn that it had closed down due to this,” said Kang.
He said that a lack of workers had resulted in some SMEs retaining their skilled foreign workers illegally rather than sending them back.
“The government must now consider allowing SMEs some flexibility in applying for the extension and registration of their foreign workers of more than 10 years,” he said.
Malaysian Indian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub welcomed the move but also suggested a lower levy for foreign workers employed by restaurant operators.
“The RM6,000 levy is still considered high as it means a three-fold increase from the previous RM1,850 annual levy.
“I hope the government would considering lowering it further as most of our customers are in the B40 group who usually pay RM10 a day for breakfast and lunch,” he said.
He said some of Presma’s 4,000 members may eventually transfer the high levy cost to their customers.
Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) president Foo Chek Lee said the lower levy fees would help reduce the cost of construction and the outflow of skilled foreign workers from the industry.
“The reason we want the experienced workers to stay is because of their higher productivity.
“They can also guide the less experienced workers,” he said.
He said employers preferred experienced workers even though their wages were higher.
Foo highlighted that current infrastructure projects in Indonesia made it difficult for construction companies to recruit new workers from that country and Bangladeshi workers were not allowed to come into Malaysia at the moment.
Federation of Malaysia Manufacturers (FMM) president Datuk Soh Thian Lai said the government’s move would help employers reduce the cost of business while retaining skilled workers who were more productive.
He said many of these experienced workers had left due to the higher cost of retaining them.
“We appreciate the minister’s consideration at this juncture of global economic slowdown and domestic economic headwinds.
“With costs down, our competitiveness will improve,” he said. Perak FMM chairman Datuk Gan Tack Kong lauded the move in light of the government’s push towards transformation under Industry 4.0.
He said the move was helpful for the micro and small companies as they rely on skilled workers.
“For example in the shoe industry, there are workers working there for many years.
“If these workers leave, it will be very difficult for the companies because the companies can’t do without them,” he said.
Melaka Tourism players welcomed the decision to lower the extension levy fees for long-serving foreign workers.
Melaka Tourism Business Chamber Club (MTBC) deputy president Dennis Stanford said the move could help lower operation costs for the local hotel industry.
“It’s a lifeline for hotels and restaurants that depend on experienced foreign workers to continue operation.
“Some skilled foreign workers like chefs and waiters are being maintained by employers as they have gained the know-how over the years,” he said.
Stanford said some hotels were highly dependant on senior foreign workers for dirty, dangerous and difficult tasks.
Bayou Lagoon Park Resort CEO Datuk Marco Seow said the decision to lower the fee would have a positive impact on hoteliers.
“Hoteliers can see a reduction in operation cost and this translates to providing discounted rates for our guests,” he said.
Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association president Datuk Ho Su Mong applauded the move as timely.
“My members are happy to receive this piece of good news, especially when it helps to elevate our rising cost in maintaining our operations,” he said.
Ho hoped the government will look into more incentives to help the services industry keep afloat during this uncertain economic landscape.
Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) president T. Muthusamy echoed the same sentiment.
He hoped Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng will hold a meeting with key members of all three associations representing the owners of eateries in the country to address their problems.