Putrajaya to review 1.5 million Bangladeshi worker intake

Pakatan Harapan had promised to reduce the country’s dependency on cheap foreign labour to raise wages. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Pakatan Harapan had promised to reduce the country’s dependency on cheap foreign labour to raise wages. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — All policies pertaining to foreign workers will be reviewed, including the plan by the defeated Barisan Nasional administration to import 1.5 million Bangladeshi nationals, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said today.

“All that will be subject to review,” the Ipoh Barat MP told reporters after holding a maiden visit to the Industrial Courts here.

More than a third of the country’s 14 million workforce are migrant workers and the Pakatan Harapan coalition made it a key campaign issue in the lead up to the May 9 polls, promising to reduce the country’s dependency on cheap foreign labour to raise wages.

Kulasegaran said the new government’s focus will be on empowering local workers.

“I want to be clear. As far as foreign workers are concerned we want to reduce our dependence on them.

“We will allow out of necessity (but) priority will be our Malaysians first, others come second,” he said.

Some of the country’s largest economic sectors like construction and plantation are heavily dependent on foreign workers.

Many companies opposed the pro-local employment policy, claiming their preference for foreigners stems from necessity because migrant workers fill up jobs Malaysians don’t want.

On the other hand, critics argued cheap foreign labour depressed wages for locals even if official data indicates growth in salaries for the past five years.

How the new PH government plans to resolve the deadlock remains unclear.

Kulasegaran said the government will have to consult all stakeholders first, but said Putrajaya will not be deporting these workers yet.

“Those incoming we will do what we can this filling up (of jobs), we agree (on its necessity).

“Our priority should always be our workers because if you look at some industries there are so many foreign workers when we do not require them,” he said.

The minister did not state which sectors face the said problem.

PH in its election manifesto pledged to streamline floor wage to RM1,500 nationwide as part of its effort to raise salaries, but it is not certain if the policy would extend to the foreign workforce.

Kulasegaran, who was sworn in as minister only just four days ago, said his ministry will need time to study the plan.