INVOKE proposes six-step solution to reduce dependency on foreign workers

PKR’s Rafizi Ramli holds a copy of ‘Bina Semula Negara’ during the ‘INVOKE: A Guide To Rebuilding Our Nation (Vol. 1)’ policy launch in Subang May 14, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May
PKR’s Rafizi Ramli holds a copy of ‘Bina Semula Negara’ during the ‘INVOKE: A Guide To Rebuilding Our Nation (Vol. 1)’ policy launch in Subang May 14, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — INVOKE has proposed a six-step solution to reduce the number of foreign workers which includes reducing dependency on foreign labour and boosting local productivity.

In a handbook titled ‘A Guide to Rebuilding Our Nation (Vol 1)’, INVOKE Centre for Policy Initiatives (I-CPI) has projected the number of foreign workers in the country to stand at 7.5 million people come 2034.

The book quoted a statement by Chua Choon Hwa, the deputy secretary for policies from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, who reportedly said in May last year that the number of foreign workers in the country has already exceeded the number of ethnic Indians.

The report, written by PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli and ex-corporate lawyer Eric Lee proposed that existing laws be enforced to allow foreigners to only work in permitted sectors with a permitted job scope.

Pointing to a restaurant sub-sector under the Home Ministry’s regulations for hiring of foreigners, the duo pointed out that under the set laws, foreigners are only allowed to work as cooks.

I-CPI also proposed to gradually reduce the sectors and the work types in which foreigners are hired and to tighten the regulations for hiring foreigners.

In the report, the organisation said that there are many sectors and sub-sectors which do not require foreign workers, such as the service sectors including restaurants, cleaning services, hotel industry, spa and reflexology, caddies and cargo handling.

“The common reasons always given by employers are that it is difficult to find local workers who are willing to do the job because apparently the pay offered is low.

“However, with the enforcement of minimum wage, by right the salaries paid to foreign workers for doing the jobs is the same with local workers, which is that the pay cannot be lower than the national minimum wage (that is RM1,000 a month as per the National Minimum Wage Order 2016).

I-CPI also suggested to increase the levy paid to bring in foreign workers to fill the low and medium-skilled sectors by 10 per cent annually till 2020 and to allow foreign workers to join worker’s unions to protect their rights and to equate their salaries with local workers.

They said the government should also form an incentives fund of RM1 billion to encourage employers to upgrade their technological equipment and to ensure that local workers can carry out their jobs with more value.

“The addiction to cheap labour (in the form of foreign workers) makes sectors lackadaisical to the need to upgrade their technological applications, and improve their work process, so that their operations are not too dependent on labourers, the report said.

It also proposed the fixing of a targeted number of foreign workers to be reduced by 2035.

“The target must be ambitious and can be achieved. When the target is high but ambitious, the process to achieve the target will bring a change of mind and culture that will be permanent.

“This is why I propose that Malaysia targets to reduce drastically to only 500,000 foreign workers come 2035, which is a 92 per cent reduction from the total anticipated number of registered and unregistered foreign workers of 6 million people (based on latest statistics),” Rafizi and Lee wrote.

The duo projected that there would be at least 2.75 million job opportunities for locals, assuming that 50 per cent of the vacant jobs remain and can be taken over by them.

The book by Rafizi and Lee was launched yesterday, and is the first of two volumes.

The first book has dealt with economic and market labour reforms, while the second will deal with political, civil service and anti-corruption reforms.

Subsequent volumes of Rafizi’s book will be released every two months, with the second volume set to be released in July.

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