With Malaysia's plantation, rubber glove manufacturing and furniture sectors in dire need of workers, Malaysia is leveraging on a government-to-government platform with Bangladesh to expedite new hires.

"Last week, the Cabinet has directed Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem to speed up the process of sourcing new hires from Bangladesh," Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong said after officiating the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Furniture Industry Association (KLSFIA) 60th Anniversary and Merger Gala Dinner, according to New Straits Times.

"My ministry is coordinating with relevant authorities to ease this problem so that you can meet the export orders," he added.

Assuring furniture manufacturers, Mah added that his ministry is looking at new measures to facilitate adequate supply of rubberwood at competitive pricing as well as liaising with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to facilitate furniture manufacturers to exhibit at the soon-to-be-completed Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) that spans across one million sq ft.

Malaysia's foreign worker saga started in February when the government placed a ban on foreign workers which was later lifted in May by the Malaysian Cabinet for four sectors in light of major staff shortages.

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Despite the ban lift, to date, furniture manufacturers such as members of KLSFIA said they continue to face labour shortage - repeatedly appealing to the government that the sudden policy change in the hiring of foreign workers was bad for business, the New Straits Times reported.

"The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) have also said that disruption in new hire of foreign workers is jeopardising Malaysia's position as the number one maker of medical and surgical gloves globally," the New Straits Times wrote.

Last year, Malaysia's 106 medical glove-making factories churned out some 120 billion pieces for exports and this brought in RM13.1 billion.

“As global demand for medical gloves expands, we need more workers; it is our fervent hope the government ensure availability of new foreign worker hire,” Margma president Denis Low Jau Foo told the New Straits Times.

“We are duly worried by not being able to meet global demand for this medical device. There is an element of humanity here as the medical gloves we make are a necessity for doctors to save lives,” Low added.

READ MORE: Malaysia will reopen employment to foreign workers

At the same time, the Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) reiterated its members continue to face acute shortage of workers and they are experiencing huge losses, reported the New Straits Times.

Currently, Sarawak has 1.4 million hectares planted with oil palms and SOPPOA members require 175,000 workers, according to the Labour-Land Ratio of one man to 8ha. However, only 108,000 workers are employed in the Sarawak plantation industry (86,000 foreign workers and 22,000 locals), revealed data from Malaysian Palm Oil Board and the Sarawak Labour Department.

"We face shortfall of over 67,000 workers. Loss of fruits left unharvested leads to billions in revenue losses to estates and the government in terms of taxes collection," it said in a statement to New Straits Times last Friday.

If new hire of foreign workers continues to be disrupted and lacking, SOPPOA regretfully expressed Sarawak's palm oil industry may not be able to meet the government’s target growth of 8 per cent per annum to achieve 2 million hectares of planted area by 2020.

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Photo / 123RF