Manufacturing loses almost 22,000 workers, derails recovery

by AZREEN HANI / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) survey revealed that the manufacturing industry reported an overall shortage of manpower by close to 22,000 workers.

The survey conducted in early October involving 252 respondents stated that the highest shortage faced was amongst the low/unskilled general workers category at close to 14,000 workers.

This was followed by skilled general workers, technicians, machinists and engineers totalling over 7,000 workers.

Top five manufacturing sub-sectors facing manpower shortages are the electrical & electronics, food and beverages, chemicals and chemical products, fabricated metal and rubber products.

In response, FMM appeals to the government to lift the current freeze on foreign workers to fill the gaps in the unskilled general worker category as a short-term measure.

FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said this is meant to assist the industries with their business revival so as to support economic growth for the country, amid “acute manpower shortages” that is happening.

“It is feared that if the urgent manpower needs are not addressed quickly, it could derail the recovery of the industries including their ability to meet their orders in hand and expansion plans. Consequently, it would also impact the ability to fulfil supply obligations as part of global supply chains given that Malaysian is a key manufacturing and supply chain hub in the region and the significant role and contribution of manufacturing to the economy,” Soh said in a statement today.

FMM said that while the reopening of economic sectors in stages is welcomed, many industries are now faced with new challenges, especially employers in the manufacturing sector, who are facing acute manpower shortages both at the skilled and unskilled level, but more critically in the unskilled level, which is hampering the pace of business recovery.

“Shortage of workers will derail economic recovery, we need fast action from Government to prevent the fall out of industries,” Soh said.

“The number of worker shortage would be more than 22,000 considering that the quick survey only captured the responses of 252 companies while FMM has a total membership of over 3,500 manufacturing companies,” he added.

The survey by National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (NCCIM) reported an overall shortage of 77,721 workers, in the manufacturing sector alone requiring 77.1% of the total manpower needed, followed by the construction sector (11.2%) and other services (8.9%).

“FMM is of the view that in order for the industries, especially the export based companies, to bring the business outcomes to a level before the pre-pandemic level the general skill labour conditions in the year 2022 must be replenished with over 600,000 foreign labour workforce to fill the manpower gaps as quoted above as well as to cater for the some of the new investments that would still require some level of low skilled manpower for certain processes within their operations,” Soh said.