JOHOR BARU: The furniture industry is in dire need of foreign workers to position itself in the forefront as a global furniture exporter.
Federation of Johor Furniture Manufacturers and Traders Associations president Steve Ong said the government should address this shortage as soon as possible so that Malaysia would not lose out to other countries.
“We are facing strong competition from Vietnam and Mexico, where the Latin American country has been gaining an edge over us for a few years now.
“The delays in production due to the shortage of workers, coupled with the disrupted production throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, have resulted in many cancelled orders.
“Manufacturers, too, are getting penalised for the delays,” he told The Star last Sunday.
He said since the manufacturing sector was allowed to resume operations recently with fully vaccinated employees, the amount of overtime allotted was still not enough to cover the losses and make up for the delays.
The shortage of foreign workers across most industries in the country have also resulted in the unhealthy practice of poaching legal foreign workers from other companies, he added.
Ong said in Johor alone, at least 20,000 more foreign workers were needed to meet the huge demand in the furniture manufacturing industry.
Johor, particularly Muar, produces about 70% of Malaysia’s furniture.
“Local white-collar employees who lost their jobs during the pandemic are not interested in the blue-collar jobs in the manufacturing sector as it is labour intensive and involves long hours.
“We hope the government can iron out this issue and let healthy foreign workers from Bangladesh or Nepal into Malaysia soon because it will help with our recovery efforts,” he said.
Meanwhile, adviser to the Johor Mentri Besar, Datuk Tee Siew Kiong, said having sufficient manpower is crucial for economic recovery.
“This will benefit the oil palm smallholders and its related industries as the price of the commodity is high at present, and having sufficient manpower could benefit the situation,” he said.
He added that the Johor government has highlighted the digital and the agriculture economies as the two main areas for the state’s economic recovery.
Tee said the price of palm oil was affected due to the increase in tax and reduction in exports to countries like China and India during the previous Pakatan Harapan administration.
“During the pandemic, the price of palm oil in the country hit a record high. When my team and I went to the ground to hand out aid, some oil palm smallholders, who were previous aid recipients, told us they no longer needed it.
“This is a good sign as they have become more financially independent, which reduces the burden on the government as well.
“I hope the shortage of foreign labour would be addressed soon to deal with the issues faced by the sectors to avoid more losses,” he added.