Foreign workers recruitment start here

PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry is currently investigating some of the 14 immigration state branches which have issued e-Kad to illegal foreign workers who have not gone through the Rehiring Programme.

Its deputy minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said it was wrong to issue the cards — that allows them to be identified to the authorities — unless the employee undergoes the programme.

\"This is wrong, (and) those who have obtained their e-Kad through this manner, return it. If they\'re caught either by the immigration or the police, their e-Kad is invalid unless they have gone through the programme,\" he told reporters here after visiting Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd with some officers from the ministry and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority.

When asked if there may have been confusion when issuing the e-Kad, he said: \"The instructions from KDN (home ministry) are very clear — e-Kad is a subset of the Rehiring Programme and cannot be issued without going through it.\"

On how the E-Kad had been obtained by the illegal workers, he said: \"The Rehiring Programme is done at the Immigration offices. When an illegal foreign worker comes with their employer, they (the employer) will have to pay some charges, including a levy to the government and then, an e-Kad will be issued to the employee.

\"But, it\'s been identified that some immigration branches have issued the e-Kad without going through the programme,\" he said.

He declined to state how many e-Kad have been issued when pressed further.

On a separate note, he urged that all applications for foreign workers be done through online systems available on two portals — ePPax, a centralised foreign worker management system, and sppa, which is meant for hiring employees from Bangladesh only.

This is because the ePPax system is used generally, or business-to-business, while sppa is a government-to-government (between Malaysia and Bangladesh) initiative.

\"I hope that employers will not be confused on the matter as we have conducted engagements through the media and employers\' association,\" he said.

The ePPax website is and sppa\'s is

\"When an employer enters his application in the portals, it does not mean they will get a worker\'s permit immediately. There is a second procedure to call the applicants for them to prove through an interview that they do need the (foreign) employees. We, at the Home Ministry, also want to make sure the application is legitimate.

\"Upon confirmation of the application, the approval letter and sticker for foreign workers will be issued,\" he added.

JOHOR BARU: Malaysia is no longer perceived to be the land of milk and honey, and foreigners are no longer keen to take up difficult, dirty and dangerous (3D) jobs in the country.

The depreciating ringgit in recent years is making them think twice about whether it is worth it to make the journey here to search for the good life.

Small and Medium Enterprises Association Malaysia past president Teh Kee Sin said foreigners now preferred to work in Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

“They are better paid in these countries,” he said, adding that many Indonesian construction workers currently working in Malaysia are only waiting for their contracts to expire before moving elsewhere.

Teh said demand for skilled construction workers was on the rise in Indonesia as there were many infrastructure and property projects in the neighbouring country.

“Indonesians previously working in the construction sector in Malaysia can command good pay and most of them will also start as supervisors,” he said.

Teh said Malaysia should start reducing its dependency on foreign workers and the authorities should get rid of the illegal workers first as their presence has caused uneasiness among the locals.

He said based on newspapers reports, it was estimated there were two to three million illegal workers in the country.

“The Government should continue giving more incentives to SMEs so they can invest in automating their operations and reduce the dependency on foreign workers,” he said.

Malaysian Indian Commerce Association president P. Sivakumar said foreigners were now not only carrying out 3D jobs, but also going into business.

He said the recent crackdown on foreigners conducting business activities in Pengerang, Kota Tinggi, by the local authority was just the tip of the iceberg.

“If you walk around downtown Johor Baru, there are so many shops with sign boards in foreign languages and you might think you were either in Kathmandu or New Delhi,” he said.

Sivakumar said these foreign operators hired workers from their home countries with most of their customers also among their countrymen.

“The revenue generated from their businesses is being sent back to their home countries and Malaysia is not gaining anything from them,” he said.

It was reported in March last year that foreign workers had sent back RM119bil to their home countries since 2011, with Indonesian workers the biggest contributors at RM21.2bil over the last five years.

This was followed by Bangladeshis with RM17bil, while Nepalis sent home RM13.2bil, Indians RM6bil and Filipinos remitted RM3bil.

“The figure would be higher if we were to take into account undocumented foreign workers,” Sivakumar said.

He disagreed with the view that Malaysians were not willing to do work that was deemed difficult and dirty, saying there were thousands of Malaysians commuting daily to do such jobs in Singapore.

THE ongoing diplomatic spat between Malaysia and North Korea has laid bare the dysfunctional management of our country’s foreign worker policy. The fact is, we have North Korean workers here.

Initially, there were claims that the North Koreans were here on a special arrangement limited to only one mining company. This is not surprising as North Koreans may have the required mining expertise. But the company disclosed that they no longer have them and the last batch was sent back months ago.

So it is shocking that last Wednesday, the Chief Minister disclosed that out of the 176 North Korean workers in Sarawak, 140 of them were found to be overstaying after their work permits expired while 36 had legal work permits. That means 80% of them are illegals!

According to a report in The Guardian on Oct 29, 2015, human rights activists claimed that tens of thousands of North Koreans were sent to work abroad in conditions that amount to forced labour to circumvent United Nations sanctions and earn up to US$2.3bil in foreign currency for the country, as revealed by a UN investigator.

A local newspaper managed to speak to a North Korean worker with a valid pass, who is one of six legal North Koreans working at a construction along the Batu Kawah-Matang Link Road.

According to him, he has been working in Sarawak for the past four years and started working at the construction site two months ago after working in the Kota Samarahan area.

Asked about his salary, he said: “You would not understand and Malaysians and anyone from any country would not understand.”

So there you go, we have North Koreans working not only in mining.

Our foreign worker issue has reached a dysfunctional state. Despite crackdown after crackdown, the problems have worsened. On Labour Day in 2009, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government was serious in reducing foreign workers. Within the same week, the Cabinet deferred the decision to increase the levy that was designed to reduce foreign workers.


CAN we handle a foreign workers’ day off in Malaysia? I am not too sure — I foresee chaos, confusion and disarray as families, businesses and the government try to figure out where things are and how they work. And, of course, all the mamak restaurants will be closed for the day! Last week in the United States, there was a nationwide, “Day Without Immigrants” protests, aimed at showcasing their contributions to the country. People who see themselves as immigrants, legal or illegal, took the day off from work and school. It followed President Donald Trump’s seemingly anti-immigrant stance, which included stopping legal immigration, as well as the likelihood of deporting those who entered the country illegally. Here in Malaysia, depending on whom one were to ask, there could be up to four million migrant workforce, legal or undocumented. Some of us think that it is something to be tolerated, while others suggest that such a large number is not good for our wellbeing and even our safety. The illegals should be deported, and the legal one reduced. Yet, imagine if all of them decided to take a day off, all at the same time.

Clearly, a lot of things would be dirtier, almost instantly. We have practically sub-contracted out the nation’s cleaning duties, either at the malls, airports, offices, schools and most public places, to foreigners. Thus, by noon, on that fateful day, many trash cans and waste bins would fill up, public toilets would begin to stink and the floors dirty. In most local councils, household refuse could just pile up for a day or two more as those responsible try to juggle the now depleted workforce. At the same time, too, some homes would not be throwing out anything, for their domestic help would not be working. Kitchens would smell, laundry and dishes piled up, floors not cleaned and beds unmade. Children would wake up not knowing where their socks are as their parents would be none the wiser. Half the shops in the malls would be closed, while the rest operating at reduced capacity. Owners of cafes and restaurants suddenly need to figure out how to do what in the kitchen, and reduce their menu to fried eggs and canned food, presumably, and to use only disposable utensils. Many establishments powered by foreign workers, such as supermarkets in my area, would be closed, or be operating at less than 30 per cent of their capacity. From the shelf stackers, to the backroom staff to the cashiers, all are foreigners.

At the neighbourhood wet market, oh well, we might just as well not go. The mamak restaurants and banana leaf outlets, which hire almost 100 per cent foreigners, would be closed, and our lives would be poorer for that. Where could we go? There would also be less people available to man guard posts, and provide security for our offices, malls, residential areas and buildings. Almost all construction would stop at housing and commercial projects, from household renovations to our major infrastructure works. Our industrial production index would fall as many factories would close down, so would many providers in the services sector. Our gross domestic product would see a blip, that’s for sure. Vegetables in Cameron Highlands would not be harvested for the day, and our oil palm bunches would be lying by the roadsides uncollected, and the mills would be down for the day. Our ports would slow down, and barber shops would serve fewer clients. By the way, there is another type of foreign workers, the ones whom we gloriously call expatriates. Presumably, if they are in the spirit, they would sit out the day, too. So many multinationals will not have chief executives, country and regional heads. Some of our government-linked companies would also not have leaders for a day. Some schools would have fewer teachers and administrators. But, I do believe we could survive without them for a while longer. Foreign workers not only do the dirty, dangerous and boring jobs, but more importantly, they allow us to pursue other things that are perhaps more rewarding. We get the better end of this deal, cheaper workforce and better quality of life. Yet, foreign labour is an addiction. Right now, we get our fix via citizens from poorer countries looking for a better life. But sooner or later, they might no longer come here because their home countries’ economy have improved, or we could just be priced out of the labour market. Then, we could see upheavals that last more than a day, and we should then know, who needs whom more.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ZAINUL ARIFIN, a former NSTP group managing editor, is now a social media observer.

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