PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri M. Saravanan says there are currently 1.24 million foreign workers in the country, almost the same figure as before Malaysia was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Human Resources Minister also denied claims by some DAP leaders that there was a shortage of foreign workers in the country for the past few weeks.
"We have given an overall explanation, considering that previously the Opposition accused the Human Resources Ministry of not solving the issue of foreign workers. And I have given valid documents, until today we have had 1.24 million workers, which is almost the same as before Covid-19.
"There were 1.5 million foreign workers in our country before Covid-19," he told reporters after chairing a special briefing session here Wednesday (Oct 5), which was also attended by Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran and Beruas MP Ngeh Khoo Ham.
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“The number of foreign workers will probably increase if we take into account the more than 238,000 foreign workers from the source countries who have been given instant passes.
"This does not include the 640,000 applications that are awaiting the biometric and medical process which means that foreign workers in the country will reach 2.2 million," he said.
Last month, Lim accused Saravanan for being incompetent in solving the issue of foreign worker shortage.
Saravanan then invited Lim and fellow DAP MP Ngeh to a special briefing to prove his purported incompetence as Human Resources Minister.
Saravanan also refuted Lim’s claims of a sudden surge in migrant labour approvals after he approved more than 500,000 workers, saying he would school the DAP chairman on the issue.
In addition, Ngeh also responded to Saravanan's challenge, where the DAP leader claimed that the ministry was slow in handling the issue of foreign workers.
Meanwhile, Saravanan said that he would be more careful in giving approval for the entry of foreign workers.
"I have to control it properly otherwise two things can happen. The first is that we will be flooded by foreign workers like what happened in 2019. The streets of KL were full of foreign workers sleeping on the side of the road.
"Secondly, we are in the phase of economic recovery and overcoming unemployment. Let's not be fooled by the industry's request to approve foreign workers because people are pressuring us. In the end, our Malaysians are out of work," he said.
He added that employers will be bringing in workers in stages.
“Even if we approved the quota of 400,000 workers, they (employers) still need to plan their entries. They won’t come all at the same time,” he said.