Putrajaya lifts moratorium on foreign workers hiring for more sectors


PUTRAJAYA, Jan 17 — The government has lifted the suspension of foreign workers intake for two industries today, citing critical need for manpower and economic progress following dismal reception from locals.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced Putrajaya has ended the moratorium and will now allow foreign workers into the mining and services sectors, while providing “more leeway” for those in the agriculture sector.

“The Cabinet Committee had also considered few proposals, and has agreed with the Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry to provide more leeway for foreign workers intake for the agricultural sub-sector of chicken farming (chicken/ egg and others), under the foreign workers intake for critical sectors,” Zahid said in an official statement.

“The Cabinet Committee also agreed with the proposal by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to allow foreign workers intake for the mining and quarrying sectors,” he added, saying the approval for this sector however will only be given on an interim basis until 2020.

Ahmad Zahid said the permission was given due to the critical need for manpower in said sectors which were unable to draw interest from the local workforce, with these sectors often based in rural areas and classified as a “3D job”: dirty, difficult, and dangerous.

He said that the committee also agreed with the Transport Ministry’s proposal to have foreign workers fill the void of manpower in the services sector, such as cargo operations at ports.

“The permission for this is limited only for cargo operators at ports. The ports in the country are currently facing manpower issues because such jobs are also considered as 3D, failing to attract locals. The permission is given to ensure our ports remain competitive and are able to compete with other ports in the region,” he added.

Ahmad Zahid announced that the interim hiring period for foreign workers in the tourism sector, will also be extended until 2020. Tourism-linked business operators were previously allowed to hire foreigners on an interim basis from 2012 to 2016 only.

“The permission for this sector covers spa and leg massage businesses, hotel, hospitality sub-sector (back of house), resorts and golf caddies (males only),” he said, adding that the extension was allowed to spur tourism and provide a grace period for business owners who are “not yet ready” to replace their foreign employees with local workers.

In May last year, the Cabinet Committe agreed to allow certain sectors to continue hiring foreign workers, after announcing the blanket freeze in February the same year.

The sectors were manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and its sub-sectors such as vegetable, fruit and flower planting.

Putrajaya had in February last year announced its suspension of the recruitment of all foreign workers including 1.5 million Bangladeshis, offered by Dhaka.

Zahid, who is also home minister, added that the moratorium will remain in effect until Putrajaya is convinced about the actual manpower requirements in the various sectors locally.

He further said the government will shift its focus to retraining the local workforce to meet existing demands.