Now, Putrajaya says 1.5 million Bangladeshis not all for Malaysia

Foreign workers at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur, February 16, 2016. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Foreign workers at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur, February 16, 2016. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, Feb 19 ― The federal government today clarified “misconceptions” that it will import 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh, saying the number is the labour pool made available by Dhaka and not the planned intake in Malaysia.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot, who signed an agreement on the subject yesterday in Dhaka, said there was no specific number that Malaysia was planning to bring in and that intake would be dependent on market demand.

“I would like to state that news reports about the government taking in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers is a misconception. It is untrue. It is incorrect,” Riot told a press conference here.

“The MoU that I signed with Bangladesh is just like any other MoUs with other countries… the 1.5 million (figure) is actually the number of those registered looking for overseas employment,” he added.

Riot added that the 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers were registered with their country's overseas and expatriate ministry, and that they were meant for 139 countries and not Malaysia alone.

When asked to explain why the government did not clarify the matter earlier, the minister said he “wanted to wait until the MoU was signed”.

“It is to avoid any speculation,” Riot added.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad  Zahid Hamidi was the first to announce that Putrajaya was planning to bring in the 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers.

He argued then that the move was necessary as Malaysians shunned the so-called “dirty, dangerous, and difficult” jobs performed by such labourers.

Today, Riot said the manufacturing and plantation sectors are facing serious labour shortages that could be addressed by the workers offered by Dhaka.

“Employers who need them can just log on and make their application online,” 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.

Riot said today the government was committed to ensure the cap on foreign workers would remain at 15 per cent as a ratio of the population.

The minister also said that, despite the MoU, Putrajaya will continue to push for a zero-foreign workers policy.

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