KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government seems to have a loose handle when it comes to restricting foreign workers’ intake into the country, said the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).
Speaking to Berita Daily, MEF director Shamsuddin Bardan expressed concerns on unregistered foreign workers that seem to be flooding Malaysia.
“There is about 15 million labour force in Malaysia and we have around 1.75 million registered foreign workers.
“But the ones we should be worrying are the illegals or unregistered ones because the amount is way bigger than the 1.75 million,” he said.
Shamsuddin said there is a need for Malaysian enforcers to combat this issue.
“If we have strict enforcers such as our neighbouring Singapore, where foreign workers know they will be charged under strict laws if they overstayed, flooding of foreign workers like we have now would not have happened,” he said.
Shamsuddin said Malaysia should also give an impactful message to all foreigners reminding them not to overstay their welcome.
He said it is even costly for the government to take care of illegal foreign workers who are awaiting deportation after their arrest.
“Malaysia needs to give a clear, impactful message to foreign labour, that strict actions will be taken should they stay unregistered on our land.
“It costs the government RM70 per day to retain these foreign workers at our detention centres after they’ve been caught by officials. And we are giving them food and water to take, free of charge. When there are more mouths to feed, the cost will surely increase,” added Shamsuddin.
Batu Gajah MP V Sivakumar had previously said flooding of foreign workers in Malaysia has been regarded as a norm and welcomed by its citizens without realising it.
He said Malaysia has been regarded as a hub for foreigners as it is easy to find a job and continue with their livelihood.
Can we survive without them?
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said flooding of foreign workers in Malaysia happened as there was a mismatch of needs from the government and employers.
MTUC president Abdul Halim Mansor said it is important for the government look back on Malaysia’s need for foreign workers in the country.
“In late 1990s Malaysia brought these foreign workers because there was a need for the extra manpower to develop our country in the industrialisation era.
“But now, is it purely because we can’t survive without them or we just want to rake profit from our operational cost?” he told Berita daily.
Halim said if there is a need the government should provide the workers equal rights as enjoyed by local employees.
He said there should be no discrimination against them or compensating the foreign workers with meagre pay.
“Give them equal benefits like pension and also insurance protection scheme.
“This way, employers will look at employing workers in a balanced view as there is a level playing field for employing a foreign worker and a Malaysian worker,” he said.
Halim said what is happening in Malaysia is the reverse as companies employ these foreigners not because they have the skills for the job but more for the employers to cut their operational costs.
“MTUC has expressed its concern regarding this phenomenon to the government countless times as we are now regarded as a ‘hub’ for foreign workers,” he said.
The issue is more exposed after the government introduced the 6P whitening programme back in 2011.
The 6P was an amnesty programme aimed at resolving the issue of illegal foreign workers as well as those who overstayed their work permits. It began registering and legalising foreign labourers in October 2011.
Illegal immigrants who registered under the programme were given work permits of between two and three years, depending on the sectors.
“We should stop using this leniency of an easy platform and have to be strict in imposing a proper and fair charge to these foreigners.
“Because in other countries, these illegal foreigners might be shot down or imprisoned. But it’s a different case for Malaysia. We are too lenient on them. We give them food to eat and even provide them jobs after they illegally crossed our borders,” added Halim.