KUALA LUMPUR • After confusing signals in Malaysia over its foreign labour policy, the Malaysian government has decided to halt the recruitment of new foreign workers into the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Home Minister, made the announcement yesterday, saying that this meant that the initial agreement signed in Dhaka to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers was officially scrapped.
"There will not be one, let alone 1.5 million new foreign workers coming into our country. Employers who need workers will have to apply to legalise existing foreigners in the country without work permits or whose permits have expired," he told reporters while in the Bagan Datoh parliamentary constituency.
Datuk Seri Zahid said that the government had also brought forward the deadline by six months to June 30 for employers to legalise foreign workers who were already in the country as "employers continuously ignore the chances given to them".
" Instead, the government is criticised and pressured. If they can't hire anyone, they should just get the Malaysian Employers Federation, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers and Malaysian Trades Union Congress to help them find locals to do the job," he said.
He added that employers and recruitment agents found flouting the rules would be dealt with more severely.
"Right now, they are not afraid because they think they can get away by paying a fine but that will not be the case any more," he said.
Last month, the government initially signed an agreement in Dhaka to bring 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers into Malaysia over three years. However, public controversy forced the government to announce a temporary freeze on foreign labour, which has been in place since Feb 19.
With up to 25 per cent of the Malaysian workforce consisting of foreign blue-collar workers, industry groups are expected to be hit badly by the new policy.
While most of the imported labourers do menial work shunned in Malaysia, South-east Asia's third- biggest economy, their large presence causes unease among local residents. Trade unions blame them for depressing local wages, while others accuse them of creating social problems.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK