‘Provide aid to ease financial burden’

KUALA LUMPUR: There is a need to look into increasing direct cash assistance under Budget 2023, targeting not only workers but other groups as well, says the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

These groups, said its president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani, included the elderly, school students, the disabled, indigenous people and single mothers.

“These are also the people who have helped in some way or another towards economic recovery,” he told Bernama.

The government, said Mohd Effendy, needed to provide financial incentives, such as the Wage Subsidy Programme or tax breaks to employers, especially those in the small and medium enterprise sector, to encourage them to implement the RM1,500 minimum wage policy once the exemption was over in January.

“Besides enforcing the minimum wage to ease the burden of private sector workers, MTUC also hopes that the government will make it compulsory for all private companies to provide the cost of living allowance for their staff nationwide,” he said.

Mohd Effendy also recommended for an allocation to be set aside for ‘green jobs’ to tap employment potential in the green sector, as well as additional funds to help provide access to housing, education, quality healthcare, transport and safety.

Other matters that MTUC hoped for, he added, was for the expansion of the health protection scheme for the B40 group (Peka B40) to include retirees and the elderly, and an increase in pension payments to all workers involved in the country’s Privatisation Programme.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman calls on the government to address human capital issues with the perceived dearth of local talent with digital and innovative skills.

He said based on the MEF Survey on Issues Relating to Budget 2023, it was revealed that 76% of respondent companies were currently facing manpower shortage after the reopening of the economy, while 84% were facing difficulties in recruiting local workers.

“Skills mismatch has been a persistent issue in Malaysia, with the expertise of jobseekers, particularly fresh graduates, not matching industry requirements.

“This situation has caused some employers to look for the right talent abroad and hiring expatriates for certain positions,” Syed Hussain said.

He urged the government to focus on improving the development of relevant skills as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET) through industry-led learning models, including the establishment of sector-specific skills councils and apprenticeship programmes.

He also asked the government to ensure a more efficient, smooth and transparent application process for foreign workers.

“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 the source countries to control and cap the recruitment fees charged by the agents.

“This is because whatever fees charged by the agents at the source countries will eventually be paid by the employers in Malaysia under the zero-fee recruitment policy,” he said.

A national policy on employment of those aged 60 and above should also be drawn up, he added, proposing that employees in the age group receive reductions in tax rate while tax incentives be given to their bosses.

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