Vacancies in the palm oil sector need to be aggressively promoted with the cooperation of youth NGOs
by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BLOOMBERG
JOBS are abundant in the construction, manufacturing, plantation and agriculture sectors, yet Malaysians are still not keen to fill up all the positions despite the financial woes brought upon by the relentless Covid-19 pandemic.
While the government’s effort in limiting the hiring of foreign workers to protect the locals is lauded by many, it has left unpopular sectors vacant, particularly palm oil plantations that are projected to face a larger than expected drop in crude palm oil output as a result of a drastic labour shortage.
Malaysian Estate Owners Association president Peter Benjamin said plantation companies had advertised job vacancies in newspapers of every language, as well as with the Social Security Organisation and job portals, but no local is interested particularly in the harvester job.
“Locals cannot replace foreign workers. To date, we are short of around 60,000 workers who were mostly from Indonesia, Bangladesh and India,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.
According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s monthly statistics report, palm oil stockpile fell to 8.6% month-on-month (MoM) to 1.57 million tonnes in October, the lowest since June 2017.
Production for the month contracted 7.8% MoM to 1.72 million tonnes, the lowest since May.
Benjamin said although there are local workers in the plantation sector, most of them are more interested in working as tractor, lorry drivers and security guards.
“We want workers for harvesting, which is the main job. We are losing a lot of plantation crops. We have automated machines, but the industry still requires manpower,” Benjamin said.
Malaysian Youth Council (MBM) president Jufitri Joha said the vacancies in the palm oil sector need to be aggressively promoted with the cooperation of non-governmental youth organisations, such as MBM.
“Salary of harvesters could reach around RM2,500 with accommodation provided, and this should be widely publicised,” he concluded.
The Home Ministry on Nov 13 announced that employers in the four sectors will be allowed to employ undocumented foreign workers under the Labour Recalibration Plan legally.
“We anticipate the Labour Recalibration Plan and hope it will start soon,” Benjamin added.
However, the Malaysia Association of Cleaning Contractors president Noruddin Idris is not as optimistic as the cleaning industry is not in the plan.
“I voiced this concern with the Human Resources Ministry, but they could not provide me with an answer as to why the cleaning sector is not included.
“Local workers are still reluctant to join cleaning services which fall under the 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) jobs category, hence, we have a critical employee shortage,” he told TMR.
The cleaning sector employs over 200,000 workers, of which 75% or 150,000 are foreign workers.
Jufitri said the 3D jobs that were vacated after the foreign workers were repatriated do offer lucrative salaries to locals.
“However, the youth are not being selective, but we are very concerned about social status. University graduates are reluctant to take up 3D jobs because they do not enhance the skills and knowledge gained throughout their studies.
“I think the National Employment Council should address this issue and at the same time, focus on creating new jobs in line with country development,” he told TMR.
Jufitri also suggested for the government and employers to rebrand the 3D jobs to be more attractive and provide a conducive work environment with interesting incentives.