Time to consider those already here, even paroled convicts
Published on: Sunday, July 17, 2022
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INDONESIA announced that it has stopped receiving new job orders from Malaysia for workers in all sectors. 

This is probably due to an alleged breach of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Malaysia and Indonesia in April, specifically the condition that the Immigration Department’s Sistem Maid Online is not supposed to apply to Indonesian domestic workers.

Based on the MOU, Indonesia requires recruitment of domestic maids to be only done through the One Channel System (OCS). The use of OCS was agreed to in the memorandum to screen employers and ensure that only those eligible could hire Indonesian domestic workers at a minimum salary of RM1,500 a month.

According to Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman, Indonesia’s refusal to allow workers to come over will prolong the chronic labour shortage that all sectors of the Malaysian economy are facing. 

Efforts by businesses to bring their operations back to pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels will be hampered by this action

Indonesia is an important source country of foreign workers for Malaysia, as about 35pc of such workers here come from that country. The supply of domestic workers from Indonesia is even more critical as they make up about 70pc of all maids in Malaysia.

It is very critical for the Malaysian government to iron out this issue to ensure that the smooth supply of foreign workers will not be disrupted. Employers have endured a shortage of foreign workers for a long time, with the problem causing severe operational disruptions. Some businesses in the manufacturing sector have had to turn down new orders for fear of not being able to meet deadlines.

Construction companies are having to pay penalties for late deliveries of projects. Restaurants are being bombarded with complaints from customers for slow service due to staff shortage and hotels are also being criticised for not being able to check in guests on time due to rooms not being ready.

And, of course, plantation companies are suffering huge losses due to a shortage of harvesters and are unable to capitalise on the current high prices of palm oil.  The plantation industry cannot wait for workers as it depends on harvesting the crop at the right time, failing which the fruits will turn bad and will be considered a total loss that will not be able to be recovered.

The MEF proposes that the government give special approval to utilise sources of labour available within the country now. We can look for workers from among refugees and paroled prisoners, for instance. 

With the approval of the government, such people can be deployed immediately to address the acute shortage until new foreign workers finally arrive.

It was reported that there are about 168,000 refugees holding the official UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) card and more than 60pc of them are potentially employable. 

We need to look for quick solutions as short term measures until all foreign labour recruitment issues are resolved.

The Joint Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers should also review conditions under the Labour Recalibration Programme to regularise foreign illegals in the country to allow more Pati (immigrants without ­proper documentation) to participate in the programme.

While the MEF supports efforts to reduce dependence on foreign workers in certain sectors, the government should address this complex matter on a sectoral basis as, apart from the plantation and construction sectors, many other sectors, such as manufacturing and restaurants, also depend on foreign labour. While waiting for the arrival of new foreign workers, MEF is appealing to the government to allow other forms of labour to be used to cover the shortage of foreign workers.

MEF also proposes to the government to arrange for more foreign workers from other source countries.


- The views expressed here are the views of the writer MEP and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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