Bangladesh waiting for Malaysia to green-light labour export

As 75.6% of its population has been fully vaccinated, it remains only a matter of time before Malaysia allows accepting foreign workers, especially from Bangladesh.

Sources at the Bangladesh Association of international Recruiting Agencies (Baira) and the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) are eagerly anticipating a formal announcement for the Malaysian government to resume labour export from other countries.

A Baira leader told Dhaka Tribune on Thursday that as the Southeast Asian economy is expected to gain momentum due to robust economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, they were expecting the announcement.

But so far, nothing has materialized, said a top BMET official.

Ever since Bangladesh started exporting labour to Malaysia in 1978, the country exported 10,57,217 workers to the Southeast Asian country, he also said.

Bangladesh exported a total of 18 workers to Malaysia during the January-October in 2021, 125 workers in 2020, 545 workers in 2019, 175,927 workers in 2018 and 99,787 workers in 2017, according to the BMET.

Bangladesh exported 93 workers to Kuwait, 1744 workers in 2020, 12,299 workers in 2019, 27, 637 workers in 2018 .

It exported a total of 217,669 workers in 2020 as against 700,159 workers in 2019, as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted movement of people during the last one and a half year.

Until October this year, Bangladesh exported a total of 383,032 workers to different countries showing a sign of recovery this year, said another Baira leader.

SM Zillur Rahman, chairman of Rahman Group and former director of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), told Dhaka Tribune: “Revival of markets in Malaysia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait is important for boosting labour export.”

Meanwhile, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed has claimed that overseas employment has returned to its previous level, with over 1.5 lakh workers sent abroad during the July-October this year.

He made the disclosure at the 14th meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment.

"We are constantly receiving demand letters, which contain job orders from employers in destination countries," Imran said.

"The target for overseas employment will be met if the current trend continues. Although the current remittance flow has slowed down, it will soon be upwards. "

Malaysian scenario

Meanwhile, the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) have reportedly recently demanded that its local employers should recalibrate their undocumented foreign workers and extend the December 31 deadline at the end of this year.

NCCIM president Datuk Low Kian Chuan said the extension is necessary due to the Covid-19 situation in the country.

“We propose that the recalibration program be extended to a reasonable time frame until the pandemic condition subsides.

Furthermore, we are approaching almost the end of the business year now and many businesses are just starting to reopen. A lot of time has been taken to handle the recalibration issue, so more time should be allowed,” he added.

More importantly, Low said that the cost of legalizing undocumented foreign workers should be reasonable, easy to apply and fast tracked for employers.

The apex trade organisation in Malaysia is a federation of five leading national trade organizations: the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM), Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (DPMM), Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (MAICCI), Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) and Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).

Low noted that a recent survey by the NCCIM on 835 companies revealed a shortage of 77,721 workers in the manufacturing sector alone.

The survey also revealed that the plantation industry needs 70,000 foreign workers, rubber glove industry (25,000), furniture (30,000), construction (200,000), services (45,000) and plastics (6,293).

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) has reportedly in September appealed to the government to allow foreign workers to enter the country to meet growing demand this and next year, citing a critical shortage of 25,000 workers since 2019.

Additional workers are urgently needed and firms are prepared to fulfill terms and requirements for the hiring process, including COVID-19-related procedures, MARGMA President Supramaniam Shanmugam said in a statement.

“We have the production capacity, but not enough workers to utilize the production capacity to its optimum,” he said, adding that a program to recruit locally had a take-up rate far below its 10,000 worker target.

Manufacturing in Malaysia, like the palm oil sector, relies heavily on migrant labour who have not been able to enter the country since the pandemic started.

The Malaysian government this month announced a special approval to bring in 32,000 foreign workers for the plantation sector.

Margma also said Malaysia’s rubber glove producers are facing “intense competition” from China, hence they need to keep capacity up to fulfill orders.

Malaysia supplies around two-thirds of the world’s rubber gloves consumption.

Due to automation, the industry has been able to maintain a workforce size of about 72,000 employees since 2013 while the quantity of gloves produced and exported have increased by 10-15% per year, the association said.

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