Looking elsewhere for labour

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is in talks with several countries to bring in more foreign workers as soon as possible to ease the labour shortage.

Among them are Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Cambodia.

This move comes after the supply of workers from Indonesia stalled when the signing of a domestic worker memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries was postponed.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said he and Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan have been in talks with officials from these source countries on the possibility of sending more people to work here.

“Malaysia has to find some remedial measures to resolve the foreign labour shortage as workers from Indonesia for other sectors cannot be brought in until issues pertaining to their domestic workers are resolved first.

“We cannot just wait without finding other alternatives as the shortage needs to be addressed fast to help with economic recovery efforts.

“We have asked for the issues to be resolved separately but Indonesia is adamant,” he told The Star.

Indonesia threatened to stop sending workers, including those for the plantation and construction sectors, if Malaysia doesn’t meet its demands to protect maids.

The MOU on the recruitment and placement of Indonesian domestic helpers was initially scheduled to be signed on Feb 7 and 8.

The Cabinet, which discussed the matter most recently on Feb 9, wants the MOU signed as soon as possible.

Hamzah said Malaysia needed to find a solution as employers have been pressing the government to address their acute foreign labour shortage.

“If we don’t find an answer to this soon, it will affect productivity and the economy. That is why we have been talking to (other) source countries to see if they can provide us with more workers,” he said.

The Finance Ministry, in its Economic Outlook 2022 report, said that the absence of foreign workers due to measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Malaysia had resulted in a labour shortage that led to a sharp decline in the country’s gross domestic product.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers said the country’s manufacturing sector alone needed 600,000 migrant workers this year.

Hamzah had said previously that 120,000 foreign workers in the plantation sector registered under the recalibration programme only catered to 20% - 30% of the demand for foreign labour in that sector.

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