Malaysia considering temporary freeze on foreign workers

December 16th, 2008 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Dec 16 (IANS) Global recession and unemployment among locals is forcing Malaysia to consider a temporary freeze on the recruitment of foreign workers, a senior official has said. The move could affect thousands of prospective job-seekers from South Asia and Southeast Asian neighbours of Malaysia.

At present, there are some 2.1 million foreign workers in Malaysia, which translates into about 20 percent of the total workforce.

Labour department director-general Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim told Bernama, the official news agency, that this was one of the options the human resource ministry was actively studying to assist locals get employment.

The Malaysian trade unions have welcomed the move.

In an immediate reaction, both the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), which represents 550,000 private sector workers, and the Congress of Employees in the Public and Civil Service (Cuepacs), which is an umbrella union for the 1.2 million government sector workers, welcomed the freeze as a “logical move to protect local workers”.

MTUC vice-president A. Balasubramaniam, an ethnic Indian, said there was now a surplus of foreign workers in the country and it was time to reduce this to create jobs for Malaysians.

He suggested that contracts for migrant workers not be renewed.

Cuepacs secretary-general Ahmad Shah Mohd Zin said although the civil service was not affected by the foreign workers influx, it was nevertheless a worrying trend as it not only deprived Malaysians of jobs, but also caused social problems.

“We notice that there is an increase in crime in our country and this can be attributed to foreigners and jobless Malaysians,” he said.

Malaysians working abroad too are facing problems.

Ismail said Singapore had indicated that it would retrench about 500,000 workers and some of them would be Malaysians.

As a proactive measure, the Malaysian government has asked these workers to get themselves registered with the nearest labour office.

As of November, about 28,000 jobless Malaysians had registered with the labour department, and so far, the government has managed to find jobs for about only 6,000.

A recent report in The Sun newspaper said between 2,000 to 3,000 jobless Malaysians get registered with the ministry every month. Given the global meltdown, the figures are expected to rise in the coming months.

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