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Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has announced that the government has placed a freeze on foreign workers.
This was according to reports from Channel NewsAsia.
“The government has made the decision to freeze the intake of all foreign workers, including those from Bangladesh. And we appeal to all employers to hire domestic workers,” said Ahmad Zahid to a cheering crowd while on an official visit to meet military personnel in Kuching, Sarawak.
Earlier in the day, a press conference was held by the country’s human resources minister, Richard Riot to clarify the issue.
“Malaysia insists it is not bringing in 1.5 million Bangladeshi foreign workers into the country amid a backlash over the purported move,” wrote Channel NewsAsia.
“The figure of 1.5 million Bangladesh workers is actually the number of workers registered with the Government of Bangladesh through the Ministry of Expatriates’ welfare and Overseas Employment for the purpose of employment to 139 countries in the world, including Malaysia, Singapore, UAE and Saudi Arabia,” Riot said.
“The perception that 1.5 million workers will be brought in from Bangladesh to Malaysia to work is not true.”
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Last week, reports allegedly stated that the Malaysian government would be entering an agreement with the Bangladeshi government to bring in 1.5 million workers into the country over three years.
This sparked uproar by groups worried about the impact on the local labour market.
Though the official number of foreign registered migrant workers in Malaysia is 2.1 million – 282,287 of whom are Bangladeshi, the local government estimated, however, that there are an additional 1.7 million undocumented foreign workers.
According to Channel NewsAsia, prior to the announcement by Ahmad Zahidi, Riot told reporters that the government was taking care to regulate the number of migrant workers according to demand from employers.
The number will be capped at 15% of the total workforce or 2.3 million foreign workers in a total workforce of 15.3 million.
“Any recruitment of Bangladesh workers shall be in accordance with Malaysia’s policy, which is based on actual demand of employers from the various sectors that are allowed to hire foreign workers subject to the principle of demand and supply,” he said in a statement to the the media.