Over 40,000 foreign workers repatriated since March

The manufacturing sector has the most workers deported, followed by services, domestic helpers, construction, plantation, agriculture and mining

pic by TMR FILE

MALAYSIA has repatriated thousands of foreign workers in various labour-intensive industries since March, following a nationwide partial lockdown that brought the economy to a standstill.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin in a parliamentary written reply last week said records from the Immigration Department showed that 40,394 checkout memos had been issued from March 1 until July 31 to send foreign workers back to their countries of origin.

By sector, the repatriation involved 18,168 workers in manufacturing, followed by services (7,033), domestic helpers (5,113), construction (4,956), plantation (3,735), agriculture (1,928) and mining (1).

He was responding to a question by Senator Datuk Paul Igai who asked on the number of foreign workers who have been deported since March 2020.

According to a report published by The World Bank last year, foreign workers account for about 15% of Malaysia’s total workforce, estimated at 15.7 million.

Indonesians make up 40% or 700,000 of Malaysia’s registered foreign worker population, followed by Nepalese (22%) and Bangladeshis (14%).

Selangor, Johor and Kuala Lumpur are the top destinations for migrant labour.

The report also stated that only 7% of the total is employed as domestic helpers, while the large majority tend to have elementary jobs or machine operation occupations and are 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 pressured to free up jobs for locals.

Employers, however, are often sceptical of employing locals due to their perceived dislike of jobs involving manual labour.

Meanwhile, in another written response to Senator Datuk Mohan Thangarasu on his question regarding the overall number of foreign workers in Malaysia, both documented and undocumented, it has been estimated that Malaysia has over five million foreign workers in total.

Hamzah said the Immigration Department issued 1.71 million temporary employment visit passes between Jan 1 and July 31 this year.

To compare, the department issued 1.9 million passes last year, however, the minister did not provide a figure on the number of undocumented workers.

He said all foreign workers are required to hold the temporary employment visit pass throughout their stay in Malaysia, in line with Regulation 11 of the Immigration Regulations 1963.

Those without any valid documents are considered illegal under the Immigration Act 1959/63.

Foreign workers are allowed to work in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, plantation, services, agriculture and mining based on an approved quota.

Hamzah said the government is committed to preventing a spike of illegal foreign workers in Malaysia.