Plantation sector needs foreign workers

Photo: Filepic/Bloomberg

THE Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) concurs with the recent statement made by the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) that despite good wages being offered, locals still shun the opportunity to be employed in the palm oil industry in Malaysia.

Hence, the industry has no option but to resort to hiring foreign workers willing to work in what locals consider 3D jobs, ie, dirty, difficult, dangerous.

The majority of Malaysians employed in the palm oil industry – comprising some 20% – are in management while foreign workers, who make up 80% of the labour force, are in field operations.

As highlighted in the MPOA report, even with the current good price of CPO (crude palm oil), producers cannot benefit as there is an acute shortage of workers caused mainly by Covid-19-triggered movement restrictions that have prevented foreign workers from coming to Malaysia since March 2020.

SOPPOA agrees that the acute worker shortage situation in Sarawak is similar to Peninsular Malaysia’s problem, ie, Malay-sians are choosy when it comes to 3D work and seem to prefer being unemployed and to live on subsidies.

Despite putting up advertisements in many newspapers and on social media as well as over radio, the number of locals applying for jobs in plantation companies is still very low.

Foreign workers are willing to work in tough conditions to support their families in their home countries. They are desperate for work and are motivated to seek work that will pay well and that guarantees a long-term position as well. Also, some foreign workers have been working on plantations in Malaysia for quite a long time.

We feel that Malaysian youth today cannot endure the difficult environment of the plantations even with high wages. They just do not possess the stamina or mentality to bear estate field conditions.

But it is time that Malaysian youths reconsider the opportunities in the plantations sector because in the digital era, jobs will become less available for those without the necessary IT skills, and automation could replace the jobs of thousands in other sectors – estate work, however, will always be available as many plantation tasks cannot be carried out by robots or machinery.

The palm oil sector has proven to be sustainable, even a life saver for the economy, even during these challenging times.


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