Saravanan: Strike balance between industry needs, foreign workers’ rights 

by NURUL SUHAIDI / Pic Source: Saravanan’s Instagram

THE government is focusing on striking a balance between the needs of the industry and the rights of foreign workers to ensure that there is no abuse towards them.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan (picture) said despite the stigma, Malaysians need to accept foreign workers as part of the community who contribute to the country’s economy.

“Previously, employers adhered to the regulations such as ensuring proper placement and housing before bringing them in.

“However, over time and due to some leniency, there have been many cases of abuse,” he said during the discussion on foreign workers’ issues at the National Council of Professors today.

He acknowledged that Malaysia already has a bad reputation in foreign labour issues due to poor facilities and payment delays by irresponsible employers and it is time to review the management policy.

“Enforcement will be more stringent since there are more parties now involved in the processes of recruitment, placement and the monitoring of the foreign workers,” he added.

Saravanan also noted that the growing foreign worker population is due to the lack of a system to send them home after serving for 10 years, which is the initial period of time they are permitted to stay.

“After 10 years, Malaysia has become their home so they are hesitant to return to their countries of origin, and this makes it harder to control their number,” he said.

He added that there are about 1.1 million registered foreign workers in the country, while those undocumented are unspecified.

“We do not have the exact data but we are sure that the number is beyond those registered, and counting,” Saravanan said, adding that most of them were forced to work illegally out of desperation.

Meanwhile, National Council of Professors president, Prof Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose said the country must be serious in reducing the demand for foreign workers by attracting local talents, especially from the bottom 40% income community (B40) by removing the stigma of 3D (dangerous, dirty and difficult) jobs.

He said this would at least balance the dynamic between local and foreign labours.

“3D jobs should not be viewed as degrading. If they are, why are Malaysians pursuing such jobs in Singapore or other countries? 

“We need to change the narrative and view the jobs as equal regardless if they are for skilled workers or not,” he said.

Apart from the stigma, Raduan noted that the salaries do not reflect the cost of living, hence the effort to absorb more B40 or local talents has become more challenging.

“However, bear in mind that higher income must also come with increased productivity. Therefore, we must continuously provide upskilling programmes,” he added.

Echoing this, Saravanan stressed the need for technology development to empower talents and industries with skilled workers.

“Apart from the regulation, we must stress on the TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) digital learning and upskilling that will not only incentivise the workforce but reduce the need for human labour in the future.

“This is not only to create a high income and skilled nation but also in line with the IR4.0. That way we can strike a balance between the foreign transfers,” he concluded.