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FMM calls for resumption of foreign worker quota application, approvals

FMM In The News: THE SUN DAILY, KUALA LUMPUR, March 27, 2023 - The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) is calling for the immediate resumption of foreign worker quota application and approvals to ensure industries in need of workers have the avenue to do so to sustain their business operations and meet their order demands.

This call was made due to the announcement by the Human Resources (HR) Minister V. Sivakumar on March 18, 2023, which caught the industry by surprise following the temporary suspension of foreign worker quota applications and approval until further notice.

The suspension was made to allow employers with quota approval in hand to make the necessary arrangements to bring in their workers.

“The government must recognise that the quota approvals are valid for an 18-month period from the date of approval, giving industries the necessary time to bring in workers, sometimes in batches, to cater for the changing production needs,” said FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai in a statement.

He said, freezing the application and approval until all the 995,396 approved quota workers have arrived, would deprive others of getting workers as well as those who have workers returning from replacing their workers in order to sustain their business operations for the next 18 months.

He also said employers with quota in hand may not necessarily bring in their workers immediately due to various reasons.

These include a hold-up in the process of sourcing workers in the source country; delays in the issuance of the calling visa by the Immigration Department; a hold-up in the mobilisation of workers at the source country; and a slowdown in demand resulting in less urgency to bring in workers immediately.

Soh said the government should have engaged with the industry to understand the situation prior to making the decision.

Based on data shared by the HR Ministry, a total of 995,396 approvals had been given for the various sectors as at March 14, 2023, which also included approvals given prior to the Relaxation Plan.

The manufacturing sector accounted for 387,122 workers.

While the sector has the highest number of approvals, FMM envisaged that the sector would continue to need workers to fill the manpower gaps as the sector experienced a sharp 44 per cent drop to 391,831 foreign workers in 2021 compared with 697,124 foreign workers in 2019 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is also to cater for some of the new investments that would still require some level of low-skilled manpower for certain processes within their operations.

“The industry, therefore, appeals to the government to resume the foreign worker application and approval to cater for market-driven worker needs”, he said.

Prior to the government’s latest announcement, the industry lauded the government’s move to introduce the Foreign Worker Recruitment Relaxation Programme from Jan 17, 2023 to March 31, 2023 to address the urgent workforce shortages.

The facilitation by the government was positive whereby in the recent FMM Business Conditions Survey Second Half 2022 conducted in January-February 2023, 89 per cent of the respondents that employed foreign workers replied in the affirmation that they had been able to meet their foreign worker needs and obtain their quota approvals.

Accessing foreign workers or manpower shortages were also no longer a top risk factor to business recovery and growth in 2023 based on the same findings. - Bernama

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