Businesses prefer local workers, there’s just not enough of them

PETALING JAYA: The business community does not favour foreigners over Malaysian workers, says the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

Its president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said companies, however, have been hampered by the insufficient supply of local workers.

“Filling job vacancies with locals has always been a top priority and will continue to be the first choice.

“Moreover, employing foreign workers is not cheap or easy, with the ever-changing labour policies and demands of international labour standards.

“The reality, however, is that companies are unable to get a sufficient supply of local workforce, especially general workers, as locals are not willing to take up such positions,” he said when contacted.

Soh said industries have also been exploring automation and technology to reduce their dependence on unskilled workers.

This would, in turn, increase the demand for more skilled local workers.

FMM, he said, believes that collective steps have to be taken to address the issue of undocumented workers and the implementation of labour reform initiatives.

These include the implementation of a multi-tier levy mechanism that would be critical to reducing the dependency on foreign workers and moving the nation to high-income status, he added.

Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nivas Ragavan said foreign workers were still needed for dangerous, dirty and difficult jobs given the lack of uptake among locals.

He said not all industries can be fully automated. Examples are the agriculture, plantation, services and construction sectors, where workers would still be needed.

“You have to support these industries with foreign workers.”

He said despite many upskilling and reskilling programmes offered to Malaysians, these sectors failed to attract local aspirants.

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