In a move which could affect Indians employed in Malaysia, the government in Malaysia is likely to send home at least two lakh foreign workers by next year to promote job opportunities for locals.
This follows the government's denial of reports earlier this month which had claimed that it had placed a freeze on recruitment of Indian workers.
Malaysia, which relies heavily on labour from India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, has over 20 lakh foreign workers with approvals for two lakh arrivals this year.
With the immediate effect, the Home Ministry has said it would not approve the work permit of any foreign worker who has been in this country for five years or longer. This alone would reduce by two lakh the number of foreign workers in the country by early next year.
By reducing the number of foreign workers in many of the industries, employers will be forced to hire local workers at "reasonable" salaries, it was reported here.
The government wants to reduce foreign workers to 18 lakh by next year and 15 lakh by 2015. "However, it faces a dilemma because it has approved applications from employers last year to bring in 200,000 foreign workers this year," the Star newspaper said Sunday.
"We are going to re-look at the policy of managing foreign workers in this country. We have a total of 2.3 million foreign workers, students and expatriates and short term workers from southern Thailand," Home Affairs Ministry secretary general Raja Azhar Raja Abdul Manap was quoted as saying.
The minister said skilled workers could work in Malaysia for a maximum of 10 years but they must have qualifications recognised by the Government.
"We have been lax with the ruling to allow employers to cut costs with cheaper foreign labour but now they have to turn to locals and pay a reasonable salary based on supply and demand," he said.
The paper said that a recent report indicated that foreigners took up 20 per cent of the 2 to 3 lakh new jobs created last year especially in the labour sector.
Regarding hiring workers in the domestic help sector, the government may insist that households with income of 5000 ringgit (about Rs 52,000) be allowed to employ foreign maids against the current 3000 ringgit (about Rs 36,000) per month.
The Home Ministry will also consider the manpower needs of the government's development projects such as the development of the Iskandar Development Region and the Northern Corridor Economic Region, the daily said.
Malaysia currently employees foreign workers in the sectors of construction, plantation, hotels and restaurants.