Malaysia lifts freeze on hiring of foreign workers for four sectors

A worker carries building material at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur on May 4, 2016.
A worker carries building material at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur on May 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian Cabinet is lifting the freeze on hiring foreign workers for four sectors, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The decision was made in the light of appeals from the manufacturing, construction, plantation and furniture-making industries, which are facing a major shortage of workers.

"In view of the acute shortage, we have to lift the suspension to allow these sectors to bring in foreign workers," said Mr Liow.

However, he said that the Cabinet was already looking to improve the system for hiring foreign workers, after which they would gradually lift the hiring freeze for other sectors too.

"On other sectors, we will go on a case-by-case basis, while waiting for the creation of a more foolproof, transparent and accountable system," he added.

"Workers are important for the productivity of these sectors, so if employers face too many uncertainties in hiring workers, that will not go well for the nation's economic growth," he said.

Mr Liow added that it would take time for the government to engage with the various industries to better understand the situations that each sector faced.

However, he emphasised that it was important for the government to regulate and have proper control over the hiring of foreign workers in Malaysia.

The Star reported recently that a survey by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers showed that 84 per cent of manufacturers were facing a labour shortage, with half of them claiming that they had not been able to fulfil existing orders.

The survey showed 146 companies required 13,270 new workers this year to meet their business needs and replace unfit or returning workers.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the illegal foreign workers' rehiring programme must be made more efficient to assist manufacturers, who were facing a manpower shortage due to the freeze on foreign workers since February.

Only 55,000 illegals have been rehired so far, out of the estimated 1.4 million said to be in the country.

Late last month, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that a decision on the freeze on foreign labour would be announced soon.