Foreign workers limited to only 3 sectors


THE government is planning to restrict the employment of foreign workers to just three sectors namely, construction, plantation and agriculture, Deputy Human Resources Minister Awang Hashim said yesterday.

He said the move would reduce the country’s dependence on foreign labour that official records show 2.1 million registered workers.

“The government has decided to allow the employment of foreign workers in just three sectors, which are construction, plantation and agriculture. Local workers will fill other sectors. This is the policy we are going for,” Awang told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The deputy minister was responding to a supplementary question by Jugah anak Muyang @ Tambat (Independent-Lubok Antu) who asked if Putrajaya had plans in the pipeline to reduce the inflow of foreign workers and ensure better wages for locals.

Awang said the government is also working to standardise the minimum wage to RM1,200 across all levels and segments nationwide. Currently, the floor wage of RM1,200 per month is only implemented in major urban areas.

In areas other than the 57 cities and towns listed under the Minimum Wages Order 2020, which was gazetted on Jan 10 and came into effect on Feb 1, the minimum wage is RM1,100 per month.

“The Cabinet has given its approval (to standardise the minimum wage). We are looking to table a bill to amend the existing Act in the current parliamentary session,” Awang said.

Malaysia’s export-oriented economy relies heavily on foreign labour, with the unofficial count ranging between 3.4 million and 5.5 million migrant workers including undocumented workers.

According to The World Bank report published last year, foreign workers accounted for about 15% of Malaysia’s total workforce that was estimated at 15.7 million. Indonesians made up 40% or 700,000 of the registered foreign worker population, followed by Nepalese (22%) and Bangladeshis (14%).

Selangor, Johor and Kuala Lumpur were top destinations for overseas labour. The report also stated that only 7% of the totals were employed as domestic helpers. The majority tended to have elementary jobs or machine operation occupations and were concentrated in manufacturing (36%), construction (19%), plantation (15%) and services (14%).

With growing unease over foreign workers and higher jobless rates expected due to the pandemic, the government is facing pressure to free up jobs for locals. However, employers are often sceptical of employing locals, as they tend to dislike jobs involving manual labour.

In response to a separate question in the Dewan Rakyat, Awang said data from the Companies Commission of Malaysia between April 1, 2020, and July 19, 2020, showed that 4,542 businesses wound up during the Movement Control Order phase against 82,555 new businesses registered over the same period. Most of the new companies were engaged in online trade, he said.

“That is a 95% difference. What we are seeing in the data is a cycle where more will be venturing into businesses when there are more unemployed people. They have to find ways to sustain their livelihood,” he said.