Minister says 15pc foreign worker cap possibly exceeded

Foreign workers make up 15 per cent of Malaysia's total workforce. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Foreign workers make up 15 per cent of Malaysia's total workforce. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, Feb 19 ― Putrajaya's foreign worker limit of 15 per cent as a ratio of the workforce will likely have been surpassed if undocumented and illegal migrants are taken into account, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot conceded today.

But Riot insisted that the official number of legal foreign workers remained under the ceiling, amid growing protests over Putrajaya's plan to recruit at least part of the 1.5 million labourers being offered by Bangladesh.

“If you look at it that way, the number has exceeded the target… that is why we want to ensure strong enforcement, so they (the illegal workers) can be deported,” the minister told a press conference here.

There as an estimated 2.1 million foreign workers in Malaysia currently and 70 per cent are usually illegal, the minister revealed.

Foreign workers make up 15 per cent of Malaysia's total workforce.

Yesterday Riot signed a MoU agreeing the terms for the intake of Bangladeshi workers over a five-year period, in a move he said was needed to meet market demand.

Civil rights, workers and trade groups have opposed the plan, arguing that the number of illegal foreign workers in Malaysia sufficed to meet the demand if the government renewed their permits.

Riot agreed but noted that a rehiring policy was already in place.

“That is why we have the rehiring programme. There are many illegal (workers) in the country and to legalise them would be a better move.

“I hope employers make full use of the programme,” he said.

Putrajaya is facing resistance and criticism from several civil and trade groups over its plan to bring in the foreign workers.

Workers groups such as the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) said locals should be given priority for jobs. It acknowledged Malaysians' tendency to reject 3D jobs, but argued that it was only because of the low pay.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced this morning that Putrajaya has temporarily suspended the intake of all foreign workers including those offered by Bangladesh.

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