No increase in foreign workers despite change in application process, claim business groups

PETALING JAYA: Foreign workers are not coming in faster even after doing away with the application process due to external issues, say business groups.

The groups said even with the freeze announced by Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar on March 19, the flow of foreign workers entering the country would likely remain the same due to issues outside of the ministry's control.

Sivakumar said the decision was made after the ministry approved a quota of 995,396 foreign workers for various sectors as at March 14.

The minister said this was to ensure that employers who had been granted quota approval could start making plans for the immediate entry of foreign workers, adding that bosses should speed up hiring workers during this period.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said that issues in source countries and reduced demand could hamper attempts to bring in workers immediately.

"There could also be a hold up in the mobilisation of workers due to flight scheduling and flight capacity issues to cater for the large number of workers.

"There is also possible delay in the issuance of the calling visa by the Immigration Department given the influx in approvals currently," he said, noting that this was affirmed by the respondents of the FMM Business Conditions Survey 2H2022 where 40% of the respondents were subjected to long waiting time to obtain their calling visas.

He added that due to a recent slowdown in demand, employers would also have less urgency to bring in their workers immediately.

Soh also said the unexpected suspension would instead hurt the economic growth of local industries and the economy as a whole.

"The business operations of industries that are on a growth momentum and businesses with new orders or peak seasons looming in the near future could potentially be hampered significantly by this.

"It will also intensify the already challenging business environment for our industries at the moment as projections of a slower global growth could continue to impact the growth of our industries and the economy at large," he said in a statement on Monday (March 27).

Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (Samenta) chairman Datuk William Ng said that the suspension would not help individual businesses whose current finances may already make it difficult to bring in new workers immediately.

"The reality is that businesses, including SMEs, will need to pay the levy and other significant costs of bringing in the foreign workers, including health examinations, air tickets, accommodation among other fees.

"So halting the quota now would not mean, businesses would suddenly be encouraged to spurge their finances to bring in all their foreign workers immediately," he said.

He added that the sudden freeze was unfair as it would disproportionately affect SMEs and employers who were still in the process of determining their foreign worker requirements, or were trying to source locally first before applying for a quota to hire foreign workers.

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