Freeze on foreign workers hiring quota stays for now, says HR Minister

KUALA LUMPUR: The current freeze on foreign workers' hiring quota will be maintained as the number of migrant workers has almost hit the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) target, says Human Resources Minister Steven Sim.

“The government has decided that the foreign worker quota cannot exceed 15% of the total workforce by 2025,” he said during Minister’s Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (March 26).

According to the Immigration Department’s records, as of March 15, there were about 2.17 million foreign workers in the country.

“At the moment the government is maintaining the freeze on new quotas for foreign workers as the number of foreign workers has almost hit the 12MP target,” he said.

He said the decision to unfreeze the foreign quota would also depend on the outcome of the second labour recalibration programme (RTK 2.0), which is an amnesty programme to legalise undocumented workers.

“Therefore, any decision on reopening of the foreign workers quota will be made after the government has the full details of the quota of workers who have not entered the country by May 31, 2024, and the outcome of the RTK2.0 process which will end entirely on June 30, 2024,” he said.

He said the government will also take into account the existing quota for hiring foreign workers which has yet to be utilised, before considering a new one.

Therefore, he said considerations for a fresh quota will only be made after details on the active ones are updated and once the RTK2.0 programme ends.

He said any unutilised quota will be redirected to critical sectors that are in need of manpower and are able to generate high impact to the country’s economy.

Sim added that on Jan 16, the joint committee between the Human Resources and Home Ministries had decided on a more systematic and less bureaucratic mechanism for the recruitment process.

He said with the new policy, the recruitment process of foreign workers will be slashed from 29 months to 15 months.

“This new policy will start once the government lifts the freeze on the new quota,” he added.

He was responding to a question by Lim Guan Eng (PH-Bagan) on the status of foreign workers, the country’s manpower needs and the measures taken to overcome the problems that have arisen.

Citing labour shortage, trade groups have previously called the government to undo the freeze.

Employers with an active quota for foreign workers are now required to bring these workers into the country by May 31.

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