Malaysia freezes intake of foreign workers and asks employers to hire locals first

Author: PM editorial | Date: 24 Feb 2016

HR minister says agreement to accept 1.5 million Bangladeshis was misunderstood

The Malaysian government has suspended the recruitment of foreign workers amid concerns about the effects of a sudden influx of 1.5 million Bangladeshis.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Malaysia and Bangladesh was signed on Thursday 18 February to allow Bangladeshi workers to be hired in sectors including service, construction, farming, plantation and manufacturing.
But the next day the Malaysian government suspended the recruitment of foreign workers while it reviewed its levy system and rehiring programme.
“The government has made the decision to freeze the intake of all foreign workers, including those from Bangladesh. And we appeal to all employers to hire domestic workers,” said deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
The Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) welcomed the government’s decision and said nationals should be given top priority for jobs.
Human resources minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot insisted that the MOU between the two countries has been widely misunderstood and that 1.5 million was the number of Bangladeshis that had registered to work abroad in 139 different countries, including Malaysia.
“The perception that 1.5 million workers will be brought in from Bangladesh to work in Malaysia is not correct. It is not true,” he said.
The large number of potential Bangladeshi workers caused concern among many Malaysians worried about the impact on the country’s infrastructure, at a time when economic growth is slowing.
The official number of registered migrant workers in Malaysia is 2.1 million and 282,287 of those are Bangladeshi. However, it is estimated that there are an additional 1.7 million undocumented foreign workers.
Despite the recruitment freeze, the MOU will still stand as a five-year agreement to allow movement of workers between countries.