Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian government is planning to send home up to 500,000 foreign workers by 2009 in a bid to force employers here to hire locals, according to a report released.
In a move which could affect Indians employed in Malaysia, the government here is likely to send home at least two lakh foreign workers by next year to promote job opportunities for locals.
It follows the government’s denial of reports earlier this month which had claimed that it had placed a freeze on recruitment of Indian workers.
Malaysia, which relies heavily on labour from India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, has over 20 lakh foreign workers with approvals for two lakh arrivals this year.
With immediate effect, the Home Ministry has said it would not approve the work permit of any foreign worker who has been in this country for five years or longer.
By reducing the number of foreign workers in many of the industries, employers will be forced to hire local workers at “reasonable” salaries, the media here reported.
The government wants to reduce foreign workers to 18 lakh by next year and 15 lakh by 2015. “However, it faces a dilemma because it has approved applications from employers last year to bring in 200,000 foreign workers this year,” the Star newspaper said today.
“We are going to re-look at the policy of managing foreign workers in this country. We have a total of 2.3 million foreign workers, students and expatriates and short term workers from southern Thailand,” Raja Azhar Raja Abdul Manap, secretary general, Home Affairs Ministry was quoted as saying.
The move follows a denial by the government earlier this month that it had frozen the recruitment of workers from India after reports quoted officials saying a ban was in place.
There are about 2.3 million foreign workers in Malaysia, according to home ministry figures, with the vast majority mainly employed in manufacturing and agriculture as well as in domestic work.
“We have been lax with the ruling to allow employers to cut costs with cheaper foreign labour,” the Home Ministry’s top civil servant Raja Azahar Raja Abdul Manap told the Star daily.
“But now, they have to turn to locals and pay a reasonable salary based on supply and demand,” he added.
Raja Azahar confirmed that his ministry was planning to have only 1.8 million foreign workers in the country by next year with the number dropping further to 1.5 million by 2015.
He said that only foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing and plantation industries would be exempt from the plan.
The government will not approve work permits of unskilled foreign workers in Malaysia for five years or more, it reported, with skilled workers getting a maximum of 10 years.
New minimum requirements could also be introduced for employers of foreign domestic help. “We are looking into the possibility that only those who earn more that 5,000 ringgit ($1,534 (compared to 3,000 ringgit presently) be allowed to employ foreign maids,” he said.