The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has proposed to the government to allow the hiring of refugees, undocumented foreign workers and prisoners on minor crimes within the country to cover the shortage of foreign workers.
In a statement, its president, Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said those people with special approval of the government can be deployed immediately to fill up the current acute shortage until the new foreign workers finally arrived.
“The plantation industry lost more than RM30 billion due to shortage of harvesters. Billions were lost as the ripe fruits were not harvested to convert to palm oil due to shortage of workers.”
“Similar shortage is being experienced by other sectors such as manufacturing, tourism retail services and construction,” he said, according to Bernama.
Hussain also mentioned that employers are currently facing acute shortage of foreign workers due to the freeze of the recruitment of new foreign workers imposed during Covid-19 pandemic period in 2020 and 2021 as well as the closure of Malaysian borders.
In February, the freeze on the recruitment of foreign workers had been lifted by the government. However, the application and approval processes are still not running smoothly and no new foreign workers are brought in so far.
Meanwhile, Hussain said that about 168,000 refugees are holding United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards and more than 60% of them are potentially employable.
He said the Malaysian business community had spent a lot of time and resources to fill up the shortages but to no avail.
“With the higher world demand for Malaysian products and services every second delay is translated to loss of revenue to businesses and government. Employers need the new workers urgently to assist in their recovery efforts and put their businesses on the right path.
“We need to look for quick solutions as short gap measures until all issues on foreign labour recruitment are resolved,” he said.