by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by BLOOMBERG
THE Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to extend the validity of the Temporary Visiting Work Permit (PLKS) to foreign workers in the plantation sector for another year.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said this is open for workers whose PLKS permit will expire this year.
Hamzah said the decision was jointly made with the Human Resources Ministry to ensure the sector could help with the economic recovery due to the Covid-19 impact.
There are two million registered foreign workers in Malaysia where more than 250,000 of them are working in the plantation industry.
It is the third-largest sector that relies on foreign workers after manufacturing and construction.
Hamzah said based on the discussion with industry players, Malaysian plantation industry would suffer RM10 billion losses annually, should the extension not be given.
“There will be a shortage of manpower. Not enough workers at the site will be available to harvest the yield.
“So, they came to apply this extension and we are considering it because this sector gives a huge return to the country,” Hamzah said after co-chairing the Management of Foreign Workers meeting with Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan in Putrajaya yesterday.
Hamzah said workers who have their PLKS permit expiring soon must submit their renewal, or they will have to take part in the Labour Recalibration Programme (LRP), a white listing programme implemented in November.
Overall, 80% of workers in plantation sectors are foreigners, and the Covid-19 disruption has caused shortages in labour at the plants due to several issues, including work permits.
Malaysian Estate Owners’ Association recently forecasted that labour shortage faced by Malaysian oil palm estates will lead to the national fresh fruit bunch (FFB) yield declining further this year.
Malaysia recorded an FFB yield of 16.73 tonnes of oil per hectare last year compared to 17.19 tonnes and 17.89 tonnes in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
The indicator peaked in 2017 before the current downward trend.
Hamzah said the decisions of the Committee Meeting made in line with the government’s aims to revive the economy immediately across all important sectors.
“We want to avoid such critical sectors like construction, manufacturing, plantation and services to suffer huge losses due to lab or shortages,” he added.
On the same development, Hamzah also announced an additional four subsectors (from services) that can take part in the LRP and the Return Recalibration Programme (RRP) led by the ministry. They are restaurant, cargo, wholesale and retail, as well as cleaning and laundering subsectors.
To date, a total of 145,830 illegal immigrants have registered under the LRP and RRP, Hamzah said.
Of the total, 72,324 illegal immigrants have registered to return and another 73,506 individuals have registered to be legally re-employed.
Hamzah said the committee has also agreed to extend the conditions of the eligibility for participation in the recalibration programmes for illegal workers that falls under the following categories; those who have registered for the rehiring and white list programme but did not complete the application process and did not receive the PLKS permit; workers who fled but were not reported by the employer; and immigrants who have a valid travel document of their country.
Hamzah assured that those who come forward and gain permission to work in the country will be inoculated in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, hence not be arrested.