India, Malaysia sign labour agreement (Lead)

January 3rd, 2009 - 8:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 3 (IANS) After nearly two years in negotiation, India and Malaysia finally signed an agreement Saturday for the “orderly” recruitment and deployment of workers and the procedures for monitoring recruiting agents and employers.The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Malaysian Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam.

The draft agreement had first been discussed in February 2007 during the fourth joint commission meeting in Delhi. After formal negotiations ended and the MoU was initiated, the Indian government gave its approval March 20, 2008.

Describing the agreement as a “major milestone” in relation between the two countries, Ravi said one of the “important components is to check unscrupulous agents”. He added that India had already signed similar labour agreements with all major gulf countries except Saudi Arabia.

The Malaysian minister said the agreement would allow “orderly recruitment” for workers to get employment in each other’s country.

Subramaniam noted that the deal would delineate the responsibility of recruiting agents, workers and employers.

A joint working group will be set up, comprising three officials from each country. This group, to meet twice a year, will draw up the administrative procedures to implement and monitor the agreement.

According to Subramaniam, there are officially 133,000 Indian workers in his country. The majority of them - nearly 55 percent- are in the services sector and another substantial number is in the plantation industry.

As per Indian figures, 30,916 workers were given permission to migrate to Malaysia for employment on their emigration check required (ECR) passport in 2007.

At the same time, the visiting minister noted that Malaysia had a long-term policy to decrease the proportion of foreign workers in the country’s workforce.

Subramaniam pointed out that Malaysia had nearly three million foreign workers, accounting for 25 percent of the workforce of 12 million. “As a nation, we feel that this is a very high number and we would like to cut it down and our target is of course to bring it down to 1.6 to 1.8 million.”

The minister said this would be done through providing incentive to increase the proportion of high-technology industry in the economy. “We cannot be reliant on labour intensive technologies,” he said.

Denying that there was any quota for Indian workers, he said the recruitment would depend on the supply.

Subramaniam will attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Chennai next week and noted that there will be large delegation from his country to the conference.

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