Huge excess of migrant labour

KUALA LUMPUR: Relaxing regulations on the hiring of foreign workers and the recalibration exercise led to an excess of over 250,000 foreign workers in the manufacturing and service sectors, the Home Minister said.

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution said this was based on an analysis of the number of foreign workers in the country compared with the labour needs forecast in five main sectors.

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He said as of Oct 9, a total of 667,418 foreign workers had come in, compared to the forecast of 518,000 based on the relaxation and recalibration programme.

The minister said based on an analysis by the joint committee on the management of foreign workers, there was an oversupply of foreign workers in the services sector.

Sizeable surplus: Saifuddin and Sivakumar holding a joint press conference in KL. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The StarSizeable surplus: Saifuddin and Sivakumar holding a joint press conference in KL. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

“It was forecast that there would be 20,000 foreign workers in the service sector, but there are 142,204 in it.

“The forecast for factories was for 50,000 foreign workers but there are 197,213 of them,” he said after a meeting of the joint committee on the management of foreign workers yesterday with Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar.

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Saifuddin Nasution said the situation was, however, not quite the same for the construction, plantation and agriculture sectors, which still lacked the required number of foreign workers, adding that there were 220,230 of them in construction against the 301,000 forecast for the sector.

In agriculture, there were 53,648 foreign workers, against the 90,000 needed.

In the plantation sector, 52,123 foreign workers were employed, but this was still short of the 57,000 needed, the minister added.

“From this data, we see that three sectors are experiencing a deficit while two others are enjoying a surplus,” he said.

He said presently, there were 1.7 million legal foreign workers in the country.

“In managing foreign workers, we are bound by the Economic Planning Unit’s policy that their number cannot exceed 2.4 million by 2025.

“As such, the relaxation plan ended in March this year and the recalibration programme will end on Dec 31. This means that there will be no more intake of foreign workers except those approved under the quota,” he said.

Some 800,000 foreign workers were under verification following the relaxation and recalibration programmes, he added.

Asked why there was an oversupply of foreign workers in the service sector, Saifuddin did not rule out an abuse of work permits by employers.

“It is unreasonable for me to say that there is no abuse of worker permits, but it is not to the extent that there was total non-compliance with the regulations,” he explained.

He said these workers in the service sector included cleaners and workers in laundries, resorts, spas, reflexology centres, scrap yards and cargo caddies, among others.

Saifuddin Nasution said the service sector was also found to be at high risk of non-compliance with regulations involving worker accommodation, working hours, and payment of salary.

“I urge employers to adhere to the regulations. Investigations will be done on the ground by the relevant agencies, and investigation papers will be opened.

“Action will be taken if regulations are breached, which could result in court prosecution,” he said.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin Nasution reminded employers in the respective sectors of the Dec 31 deadline for the recalibration exercise under the Labour Recalibration Programme (RTK 2.0).

“After which, the next three months until March will be for the verification process,” he said.

The first RTK 1.0, which ran from November 2020 to Dec 31 last year, saw 418,649 undocumented migrants registered, involving 30,137 employers.

The government had also previously announced a programme to ease the regulations on the entry of foreign workers from January to March this year.

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