KUALA LUMPUR: The sectors that are heavily dependent on foreign labour can expect to be hit by another round of operational problems as more of these workers are quitting, packing up and leaving the country. The number of foreign workers here is seeing a drastic plunge with at least 140,000 of them deciding to seek jobs elsewhere. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed told the New Straits Times that industry players should brace for further rebuff from these foreigners, who found Malaysia no longer attractive as an employment destination. “Last year, we had 2.135 million foreign workers. As of March 31 this year, the number has dipped to 1.993 million.” Immigration director-general Datuk Sakib Kusmi told the NST that apart from the drop in the ringgit, the expiration of the workers’ contracts and their unwillingness to renew them, as well as health issues were among the reasons for them leaving.

(The number of foreign worker from Philippines & Indonesia has dropped because they can find better job somewhere else)

“Some may have also chosen other countries which they feel could provide them with better offers.” Nur Jazlan said employers’ failure to reduce their dependency on foreign workers would force the government to hire unskilled workers, who would then leave once they had acquired the necessary skills. “We also have to train the unskilled workers at the expense of the locals.” He said while employers were complaining about the new levy, which they deemed to be too expensive, the government was forced to bear higher costs from having to source for lower-skilled and less-than-healthy workers. He said these “lower-end” workers would not only expose the public to the risk of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis (TB) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), but would also put pressure on the healthcare system. “By importing these ‘lower-end’ people, we are also importing more unhealthy and poor people. “Figures from the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency show that a significant percentage of the latest arrivals (of workers) have infectious diseases, like TB and HIV, which pose health risks to the public and burden our healthcare system.” He said housing these workers in cramped quarters would aggravate the problem. Employers’ refusal to pay the levy and the use of middlemen were among the reasons behind the many unregistered foreign workers in the country. “There are those who prefer to hire illegal foreign workers from illegal agencies.

(Some workers are  illegal foreign workers from illegal agencies)

The ministry wants to stop these agents from providing illegal workers, but employers must stop hiring illegal workers, too.” The government had, on March 18, announced the new foreign workers levy rates, which were set at RM1,850 (from RM1,250) for manufacturing and construction sectors (Category 1), RM640 (from RM590) for plantation and agriculture (from RM410) (Category 2). Earlier, in Parliament yesterday, Nur Jazlan said foreign workers were more inclined to work elsewhere. This, he said, was because the workers felt that not only could they get better pay packets in other countries, but that they could also get better treatment. “The number of foreign workers from Nepal, the Philippines and Indonesia has dropped as they can find jobs elsewhere with better remuneration. “But the problem is that local employers still depend on foreign workers, even in high-technology sectors. Employers are reluctant to upgrade their business process to reduce dependency on foreign labour. “This leads to unhealthy activities such as mistreatment by manpower agents of foreign workers,” he said in response to a question by Anuar Abd Manap (BN-Sekijang), who asked the ministry on the latest status on the government’s rehiring and resettlement programme for foreign workers without permits, and the ratio of foreign to local workers set by the government.– New Straits Times