Budget 2023: MTUC urges govt to step up post-pandemic aid for workforce

KUALA LUMPUR: The nation's workforce is counting on increased measures in Budget 2023 to alleviate the financial burden resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, says the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

Its president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said the government must look into the need to increase direct cash assistance not only for workers but also indigenous people, single mothers, the elderly, the disabled, and students.

"They have (all) helped in some way or other towards (the country's) economic recovery," he said in a recent interview.

Mohd Effendy said the government needs to provide financial incentives such as the Wage Subsidy Programme or tax exemptions to employers, especially the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, to encourage firms with fewer than give employees to implement the minimum wage from January.

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"MTUC also hopes the government will make it compulsory for all private companies to provide a cost of living allowance for their workers nationwide," he said.

Mohd Effendy also said a budget for green jobs should be allocated to tap the potential of green employment, and an additional budget to help provide access to housing, education, quality health care, transport and safety.

He said other beneficial developments MTUC hoped to see from Budget 2023, which will be tabled on Friday (Oct 7), include: expansion of the health protection scheme for the B40 group (PeKa B40) to include retirees and the elderly; and an increase in the amount of pension payments to all workers involved in Malaysia’s Privatisation Programme.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said the Budget should address human capital issues as there is a perceived dearth of local talent with digital and innovative skills.

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He said based on MEF's Survey on Issues Relating to Budget 2023, it was found that 76% of participating companies have faced a manpower shortage since the reopening of the economy, while 84% have difficulty recruiting local workers.

"Skills mismatch has been a persistent issue in Malaysia where the expertise of jobseekers, particularly fresh graduates, does not match industry requirements.

"This situation has caused some employers to look for the right talents abroad and hire expatriates for certain positions,” he added.

Therefore, he said the government should focus on improving the development of relevant skills and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) through industry-led learning models, including setting up sector-specific skills councils and for relevant industries to adopt apprenticeship programmes.

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Syed Hussain also urged the government to ensure a more efficient, smooth and transparent application process for foreign workers by providing employers with a clear and consistent flow regarding the guidelines, criteria, documentation and terms and conditions.

"The government needs to shorten the time for foreign workers to arrive in the country as companies urgently need workers to expand and boost their businesses.

"MEF also urges the government to discuss and negotiate with source countries to control and cap the recruitment fees charged by agents as (these expenses will eventually be borne) by the employers in Malaysia under the zero-fee recruitment policy,” he said.

He also recommended a national policy on employment of those aged 60 and above, adding that a tax rate reduction should be granted to employees in that age group, along with tax incentives to their employers.

Realising the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI), Syed Hussain also hoped the government will priorities policies geared to attract quality foreign investors especially those that could spur innovation and technological advancement.

"Opportunities for FDI can be harnessed through ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement of Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

"The government should ratify CPTPP without delay while the remaining alignments of Malaysian legislation may be done after the ratification which is necessary to address regulations and practices that restrict business entry and market competition,” he said. – Bernama

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