Recruitment System of Foreign Workers needs to be Urgently Revamped

The Centre for Public Policy Studies welcomes the statement made by the Immigration Department director-general Datuk Mahmood Adam that the department will be made a more efficient and transparent organization. In line with enhancing the Department’s effectiveness and integrity, there should be an immediate revamping of the system that manages the recruitment of foreign workers. Outsourcing companies presently get their licenses from the Immigration Department to recruit workers. The current arrangement is unsatisfactory because the system of appointing agents is subject to and a major source of abuse and corruption. Instead, it is proposed that companies should seek their own foreign employees, subject to pre-determined guidelines set by the Ministry of Human Resources and the Immigration Department.

The Centre for Public Policy Studies also calls for a reasonable wage scheme for workers. Low-income workers are currently subject to exploitation due to the poor employment conditions they undergo and are unable to afford decent living, especially with rising rates of inflation and an overall increase in the costs of living. Secondly, there would be natural preference for employment of locals who are presently unprepared to work for unreasonably low wages that are paid to foreign workers. In order for Malaysia to advance up the ladder of capital-intensive production and technology, it is necessary for the government to realize that companies now rely upon experienced staff with high productivity as opposed to cheap labour. The government has consistently emphasized the need for the economy to move up the value chain. Raising wages to reasonable levels according to respective industries would ensure the country is investing into human capital for the benefit of the economy in the long run as promulgated by the Prime Minister in his announcement that ”quality opportunities” should be made available to all.

There is a great deal of confusion presently about the management of foreign workers, the appointment of agents, renewal of permits and licenses and role of enforcement agencies. This is a poor reflection of a country intending to achieve developed-nation status. The Centre calls for a thorough and intensive revamping of the present system that would clarify matters for employers (both local and foreign) and instill greater public and investor confidence. The need to address this problem is important, as it would counter the perception as indicated by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) that the government is against unionization of foreign workers. A more transparently efficient system is urgently needed to enhance the integrity of the Immigration Department and various government agencies in managing foreign labour in the country.

Tan Sri Ramon V. Navaratnam
Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Studies
Kuala Lumpur
21st July 2008

For more information, please contact:
Tricia Yeoh,
Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies
Tel: +603-20932630/4209/2820
Fax: +603-20933078

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