Dhaka, Bangladesh
Exploring Malaysian labour market

Exploring Malaysian labour market

Write Imran Ahmed, Sabrina Rahman and Saleh Abdullah

Malaysia, a dream country of the Bangladeshi migrants, has virtually stopped hiring workers this year consequently depriving several thousand youths of employment opportunities. The climate of Malaysia is similar to that of Bangladesh. That is why it remains as one of the most favorite countries to Bangladeshi migrant workers. Against the backdrop of sharp drop in manpower export to Malaysia since December, 2018, Bangladesh should closely work with the Southeast Asian country in recruitment of its workers. Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Malaysia are three important manpower recruiting countries. According to available sources, nexus in recruitment of manpower between businessmen of two countries, high migration cost, poor perk, regime change and crackdown on former Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, and his wife Rosmah Mansor, and above all policy change in migration policy have contributed to the present stalemate. The top-level meeting between Bangladesh and Malaysia governments can break the ice in recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in the Southeast Asian market, sources in the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), Malaysia-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Bureau of Manpower and Employment and Training (BMET) said. Manpower export to Malaysia plummeted during the first four months as Bangladesh exported only 97 workers to the Southeast Asian country. Bangladesh exported a total of 175,927 workers to Malaysia in 2018, 99,787 workers in 2017, 40,126 workers in 2016 and 30,383 workers in 2015, 54,750 workers in 2014 and 60,057 workers in 2013. Bangladesh exported a total of 273,201 workers in 2007, the highest number of manpower export in one calendar year to Malaysia. Bangladesh also exported a total of 131,762 workers in 2007. Since then, the manpower export to the Southeast country suffered during 2009-2014 period. Speaking to the Malaysian media, Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran, said that the government is close to finalising all the preparations to hire foreign migrant labourers, especially from Nepal and Bangladesh, within a few months. Kulasegaran further said that the Independent Foreign Workers Committee, which was formed to suggest the government the method that needs to be adopted to bring foreign workers, had finalised its report but the government has yet to endorse it. “The Malaysian government is aware of the problems being faced by foreign workers due to the use of middlemen in the hiring process.” “After the report is endorsed by the cabinet, Malaysian firms or individuals can recruit foreign workers themselves. They will have the option to choose the type of workers they want and from any specific country,” he informed the media. As per the recommendation of the Human Resources Ministry, now every Malaysian company or individual must deposit 250,000 ringgits with the government as security money. “If a company or individual misbehaves with a worker or does not pay the salary on time or fails to fulfil any legal obligation then the government will use that security deposit to compensate the respective worker,” Kulasegaran further informed. According to him, the Malaysian government will soon introduce the Malaysian Recruitment Agency (MRA), a job portal, especially focused on migrant workers. Foreign workers will then be able to apply online for any job as per their skills. “The government plans to address all the difficulties associated with hiring foreign workers in a holistic manner and simplify the entire process,” said Kulasegaran. He added that the MRA must respond to a job query within 48 hours and inform the foreign job aspirant whether they are eligible or not for the applied job. The MRA must also respond to any other query within 48 hours. Meanwhile, State Minister for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Imran Ahmed visited Malaysia on a trip to boost the labour market there. The Minister held a meeting with Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran on May 14, with Sarawak State on May 15 and with governor of the Sarawak State on May 16 The minister held a views-exchange meeting with the Bangladeshi expatriates in Malaysia during his visit. According to Malaysian daily The Star, Malaysian Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said that the Southeast government had suspended the system currently in place for the recruitment of migrant workers from Bangladesh. He said the whole process was “a total mess” that resulted in the migrant workers paying exorbitant amount of money to several middlemen in both Bangladesh and Malaysia, also adding that the ten companies, which are part of the syndicate involved in the recruitment process, have also been suspended. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s job market demand in the next decade will shift from traditional labour to high salaried jobs that require technological skills. Michael Page Malaysia director May Wah Chan said jobs related to cyber security, big data, data protection, artificial intelligence and robotics will see a big surge in demand. However, she said that there is a massive talent shortage in these areas as the local education system does not cater to the existing demand, hence the need for the jobs to be outsourced. “The problem that we have right now is the talent mismatch. There is a high level of unemployed graduates, but at the same time we face a talent shortage,” she said to Bernama in an exclusive interview. May said the main problem faced by local unemployed graduates is the lack of technical knowledge and exposure during their tertiary study. “Overseas graduates have higher chances of getting employed as they have the knowledge and experience sought by companies, especially multi-national corporations,” she said. As of February 2019, the unemployment rate in Malaysia stood at 3.3 per cent or 516,400 persons, while employment increased 2.1 per cent to 15.03 million. She added that with the current pace of digitalisation, talents produced locally are not moving concurrently with the job demand. “Many traditional jobs will be obsolete in the future due to digitalisation, but the young talents are not trained to adapt to the change. “Our education system must be upgraded to cater to these future demands to avoid local graduates facing difficulties in obtaining future jobs,” she said. May said the country has been losing high-skilled talents to countries like Singapore which offers bigger prospects such as career advancement and higher salaries. “Ironically, the reason why some Malaysian talents decided to return home is mainly because of an elderly family member around,” she said. She added that young graduates looking for jobs must equip themselves with strong will, proper soft skill sets such as communications and correct attitude. “Qualifications are just the first step, but without proper quality, it would be difficult (to get jobs),” she said, according to Bernama. Leaders of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) and high officials of Bureau of Manpower and Employment and Training (BMET) said Bangladesh government should constantly engage with Malaysian government on recruiting manpower on large scale. Bangladesh exported a total of 226,771 workers during January-April period of the current calenderer year showing a slow trend in manpower export. Expatriate Bangladeshis sent remittance valued at 5807.67 million home during the same period. Bangladesh exported a total of 734,181 workers abroad as against 1008,525 workers exported in previous 2017. As the labour market is squeezing in the Middle-East countries, the government should explore new markets in other countries, said a Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) official. Meanwhile, a source said that Malaysia has also stopped the hiring process from other countries at the moment since it is working towards formulating laws regarding foreign employment. Very soon Malaysia will open its border for foreign workers, and Bangladeshi and Nepali workers will be in its priority list. Bangladesh should hold talks with the Malaysian government. Malaysia favors Bangladeshi and Nepali workers. Meanwhile, Malaysia has also stopped hiring Nepali workers since the government on May 16, 2018, scrapped various institutions in Nepal that had been exploiting Malaysia bound Nepali workers under the pretext of their medical examination. The Nepali Embassy in Malaysia is carrying out necessary homework for discussions with the Malaysian counterpart to resume the labor hiring process. The Malaysian government has said that it will soon implement a system whereby foreign migrant workers will be able to apply for jobs in the South-East Asian nation online. The present government has a major challenge to create new employment in the country as some 20 lakh youths are entering the job market. Finance Minister AHM Mostafa Kamal will place the national budget at the National Parliament next month. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a great leader in the South Asia, during his life-span dreamt of turning this country into ‘Sonar Bangla.’ His daughter, Sheikh Hasina, is working hard to turn Bangladesh into ‘Sonar Bangla’. With consistent 7.00 per cent GDP growth and about 2000 US dollars per capita income in the recent years Bangladesh is going to graduate into developing economy and subsequently becoming a developed economy by 2041. Bangladesh looks migration as an integral component of her development aspiration. It is one of the largest countries of origin. In national wealth creation and development- the role of remittance (around 15 billion USD per year) has been immense. We constantly advocate in favor of ethical recruitment, opening up of new legal pathways, responsible migration, decent work, protection of migrant’s rights including that of their family members, lowering the costs of remittance sending, portability of earned benefits, diaspora engagements, and informed and sustainable voluntary return. Bangladesh government is also mindful about the reintegration of returnees and their social and economic assimilation in the society through their meaningful engagement in nation building and backstopping their entrepreneurship potentials. Migration has been embedded in our national development policy to pave our journey to graduate from LDCs by 2024 and a become developed country by 2041. Instead of sending unskilled workers, Bangladesh should export electricians, carpenters, masons, plumbers, drivers, painters, health technologists, nurses, doctors, engineers, IT specialists, language specialists to the Southeast Asian country. Malaysia’s labour market conditions are expected to be stable, with continued employment and income growth, underpinned by steady expansion in services and manufacturing sectors, according to a report from the Central Bank of Malaysia. The economy, which expanded at arate of 4.7% in 2018 (2017: 5.9%), is projected to grow 4.3% to 4.8% this year. “While labour market strength will continue to support domestic demand, moderating investments and external demand will affect overall growth,” the report stated. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s unemployment rate is projected to be relatively unchanged. The report stated that in the long run, the rollout of government policies such as the tiered levy and social security contribution for foreign workers is “a positive step in reducing the reliance on foreign labour and spurring the creation of higher skilled, higher income jobs in the economy.” In 2018, employment growth stood at 2.5% (2017: 2.0%) while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4%.

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