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Need for comprehensive migrant worker policy

  • In the long run local businesses must strive to reduce their dependence on foreign workforce through automation and mechanization of their operations.

Sin Chew Daily

As minister in the PM's department Wee Ka Siong has said, the government has mapped out a substantial plan to help local businesses solve the problem of hiring foreign workers, especially those in export-oriented manufacturing industry. He also said the prime minister will unveil the details soon.

Local businesses have experienced an acute labor crunch in recent years, and this has impacted their operational efficiency.

SME Association of Malaysia vice president Sim Eng Peng says if this problem is not resolved, foreign investors may exit the country en masse.

Meanwhile, Taipei Investors' Association in Malaysia has also complained that the issue of foreign workers has seen very little improvement over the years while application procedures are time-consuming, hinting that Taiwanese investors might pull out of this country if nothing is done to reverse the situation.

Such complaints have underscored the serious impact this problem has dealt on local businesses such that the authorities must take a serious look into it. If the problem worsens, the operation of local businesses could be adversely affected and this will eventually take a heavy toll on the country's overall economic development.

Indeed, the government needs to satisfy local businesses' short-term demand for foreign workforce, but in the long run we still need to have a comprehensive foreign worker policy to ensure adequate supply of manpower while attempting to cut our dependence on foreign workers.

In other words, the government must not only address the short-term issue of labor shortage but must also draw up a long-term solution to help businesses transform and reduce their reliance on foreign workers.

We have been overly dependent on foreign workers for so many years, and although this has given us an edge in keeping business costs low, this model has nevertheless spawned some undesirable by-effects, hampering the pace of business automation and mechanization.

The labor crunch that we now see has stemmed from our excessive reliance on foreign workers all these years.

The 11th Malaysia Plan has set an upper limit of 15% (2.1 million) foreign workers in the country's job market, and the government must consequently work on a detailed plan to achieve this end.

Over-dependence on foreign workforce has given rise to the issue of illegal foreign workers, which does not augur well for a healthy social development.

We cannot deny that the government has put in some efforts to address this issue, but due to poor planning, red tape, inadequate execution and a host of other reasons, such efforts have hardly produced any effect. Take the 6P illegal worker bleaching program for instance, it was off to a grand start but ended in failure.

The issue of foreign workers entails not only the seamless operation and development of local businesses but also the society as a whole.

As such, it is imperative that the government draw up a comprehensive plan to encourage business automation and mechanization in a bid to wean ourselves from over-dependence on foreign workers.


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