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Unskilled foreign workers slowing productivity

By: Amos Seah, Singapore
Published: Feb 26, 2013

PRODUCTIVITY      FOREIGN WORKFORCE

Malaysia - The unskilled foreign labour workforce could be the cause of low productivity levels in the country, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress has said.

The employee productivity levels in Malaysia proved to be lower than countries such as United States, Japan, and Singapore, according to the Malaysian Productivity Corporation.

However, Abdul Halim Mansor, secretary-general of MTUC, said it is unfair to compare the local workforce employed in labour-intensive industries against other countries involved more in technology-based production, reported The Star.

Foreign workers account for 30% of the workforce in Malaysia.

"Malaysian employers generally like to hire unskilled foreign labour because they are cheaper," he said, adding that the local workforce is only semi-technology-based.

"If you work them like machines they won't be productive, but if you invest in them by creating a win-win situation, the environment in the workplace will change."

Rohana Ramly, deputy chief executive officer of SME Corp, said the SME 2012-2020 Masterplan put productivity of a small and medium enterprise(SME) worker at RM50,498 (S$20,165) in 2011 - three times less than a Singaporean counterpart and seven times lower than an American.

This lack in productivity could be caused by the number of unskilled workers in labour-intensive industries, the lack of commitment to up-skill the workforce, and further engagement in low value-added activities in SME, she said.

"Concurrently, we are undertaking regulatory reforms which should enhance the overall productive capacity and competitiveness of the economy."

Datuk Omar Osman, president of Cuepacs disagreed that productivity was low.

"If we were not being productive, the country wouldn't be developing," Omar told The Star.

However, he agreed more could be done to boost productivity through training courses for civil servants.
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