‘Allow all sectors to hire foreign workers’
> ACCCIM says 45% of businesses adversely affected by restriction
KUALA LUMPUR: The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) wants the government to allow all sectors to employ foreign workers, after 45% of the Chinese business community said they have been adversely affected by hiring restrictions.
President Datuk Ter Leong Yap said the government’s move to limit the hiring of foreign workers to only four sectors (manufacturing, construction, plantation and furniture-making) has resulted in labour shortage, which has affected the operations of many businesses.
“ACCCIM urges the government to lift the freeze on foreign workers for all sectors and fully streamline the legalisation programme on foreign workers, and to carry out a review and measures to formulate the conditions and guidelines on the employment of foreign workers based on the demand and supply of foreign labour in the respective sectors,” he told reporters at a briefing yesterday on ACCCIM’s Survey on the Economic Situation of Malaysia for the First Half of 2016 (1H 2016).
The survey revealed that of the total 407 respondents, 40% said they rely on foreign workers and 45% said they were affected by the restriction.
Among those who were affected, 48% reported higher cost of operations, 35% reported a drop in business turnover, 11% reported negative business growth while 6% said they had to downsize their businesses to manage costs.
In terms of plans to solve the labour shortage issue, 44% would recruit more locals, 24.5% would adopt a wait-andsee approach while appealing to the government to lift the freeze, 14.1% would move towards automation, 11.4% would pass on costs incurred to customers, 4.3% would consider moving their businesses overseas and 1.6% would consider switching to less labour-intensive businesses.
“The capacity of production is actually quite low now compared with potential capacity. Factories have to turn away orders. For those with orders to fulfil, without enough workers, they pay overtime and when they pay overtime, cost goes up and productivity comes down. These are the effects,” said ACCCIM deputy secretary-general I Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok.
He said the government’s move to reduce dependence on foreign labour is good but the policies introduced over the years seem to be knee-jerk reactions and do not address the root cause.
“We’re looking at the symptoms but not addressing the root cause and a lot of times it is putting obstacles and using threatening methods like freezing assets. This is not the way to address the issue of foreign workers,” he said.
Teo explained that with the country’s unemployment rate at 3.3%, which is technically full employment, there are just not enough local workers to meet all the labour needs of the economy.
Ter (seated, centre) and Teo (seated, second from right) with other officials of the ACCCIM holding up copies of the survey report.