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Concerns over sending skilled workers to Japan

FMM In The News: NEW STRAITS TIMES, KUALA LUMPUR, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - Manufacturers here have raised concerns on the government's plans to send skilled Malaysian workers to work in Japan.

The concerns came after Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan finalised a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on the matter with Japanese justice minister Yoshihisa Furukawa last Thursday.

Saravanan said the MoC was also aimed at making Malaysia a source country to supply skilled workers to developed countries. 

However, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai warned that the decision could further exacerbate the country's brain drain problems and worsen manpower shortage in local industries.

"As it stands, Malaysia is currently facing an acute shortage of manpower, especially skilled workers, which is hampering our national economic recovery. 

"The labour shortage has caused work stoppages and under-production across the industry. Output has been severely constrained, resulting in the failure to fulfil existing orders and accepting new ones.

"Following the Covid-19 pandemic which had accelerated industrial and technological transformation, the critical shortage of skilled workers is envisaged to continue for the next few years as we cope with the transformational changes and increased demand for skilled manpower.

"In addition, Malaysia has already been suffering from brain drain for some years now as many Malaysians have been migrating overseas in search of better jobs.

"Malaysia has been working hard to bring these diasporas back via various initiatives. As such, Malaysia should carry on with these sustainable programmes for self-help first and do all that is possible and necessary to ensure that the industries do not face a dearth of skilled workers.

"The country should be more concerned with the brain-drain issues then to be thinking about repatriating earnings from overseas via exchange programmes," he said in a statement today.

Soh said the MoC will also hamper local industries' efforts to obtain skilled manpower, given the government's current employment conditions that require industries to have an 80:20 ratio of local workers to foreign workers.

"On one hand, the government is sending our skilled workers overseas to work through such collaboration programmes and at the same time, our local industries are limited on the number of foreign employees that they are able to bring in.

"At this juncture, Malaysia is still preparing to get more skilled workers through various programmes such as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses at various levels of our education system.

"Local public institutions and industries are enhancing collaboration initiatives in promoting TVET and STEM as a way to boost greater interest and participation of our youngsters in TVET and STEM education.

"This is also an initiative to support the technology transformation of our industries and at the same time to reduce the hiring of skilled expatriates.

"The MoC with Japan would somehow hamper the initiatives and hardwork from all parties involved that has been ongoing over the past several years," he said.

Rather than exporting skilled workers, Soh said the government should consider signing memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysian companies for workers to undergo formal apprenticeship and upskilling programmes under their global parent companies.

This, he said, would help alleviate the skill shortages faced by local industries.

"Obtaining upskilling opportunities in developed countries could be something that Malaysian employers could consider after or as part of the on-the-job training.

"As there were no prior consultations or details made available on this potential skill export programme to Japan, we wish to get more information on this MoC by the Human Resources Ministry so that the industry will be clear on how this collaboration might work," he said.

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