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Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

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POST-Covid-19, one of the biggest issues faced globally is the shortage of workers as industries and businesses, which had previously either scaled down or temporarily closed for business, find it difficult to ramp up production or operating level.

Some argue that this is also a result of the “great resignation” that we have witnessed over the past two years, as the surge in the gig-economy workforce took place.

More workers are moving away from the traditional standard working environment and are moving towards achieving better work-life balance and at the same time earning enough to make ends meet.

Some are starting on their own, some are resorting to becoming freelance workers or part-timers, while others find themselves able to earn even more than before as ride-hailing drivers or delivery-men.

This has indeed added pressure across industries to the extent that the economy is not able to accelerate to its full potential due to a shortage of workers.

In the case of Malaysia, the great resignation is only one part of the equation, as the nation is at the same time extremely reliant on foreign workers to carry out certain tasks/jobs that no locals are keen to do.

Deemed the 3D jobs – dangerous, dirty, and difficult, Malaysians, in general, shun these jobs as they are seen as low-paying jobs and socially unacceptable.

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Hence, during Covid-19, as foreign workers slowly left the country, there was indeed a vacuum in selected industries, in particular the plantation, construction, manufacturing, and food and beverage sectors.

Based on reported figures, Malaysia is having a shortage of 1.3 million foreign workers, with almost 90% of the shortage alone attributable to the shortage in the manufacturing and construction sector.

The plantation sector has a shortage of approximately 120,000 workers, while among the semiconductor and glovemakers, the total shortage is less acute at 15,000 and 12,000 workers, respectively.

Closer at the individual or household level, even getting a maid has become difficult and costly due to various reasons.

Last week, the US State Department Annual Human Trafficking Report maintained Malaysia’s Tier-3 ranking and commented that “the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s anti-trafficking capacity”.

With such a damning report, whether rightly or wrongly, Malaysia has found it difficult to engage traditional sources of foreign workers from countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

This has created a serious issue with respect to filling the gap left by these workers as Malaysians seem uninterested in the vacant positions.

News of Indonesia lifting its restrictions on the entry of its workers into Malaysia, and their agreement to integrate the existing system between the Malaysian Immigration Department and the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur as agreed is welcome news.

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