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Friday, June 29, 2018

Don't simply issue passes to illegals under pretence of solving 'workforce problem'

KOTA KINABALU - The Sabah Employers Association urged the State Government to do an in-depth study and consult all relevant stakeholders before going ahead with the proposal to issue special work passes to foreign plantation workers in Sabah.

The association said in a statement that the cited number of 137,676 registered foreign workers in 2017 pales against the purported 800,000 illegal foreigners believed to be currently residing in Sabah, covering all sectors beyond plantation, including manufacturing, construction and service industries.

It said it was taken by surprise by the State Government's proposal although it understood that the move was aimed at ameliorating the legality and worker shortage issues in the plantation sector.

It pointed out that to issue special work passes entails resolving technicalities such as tenure allowed, spouse passes, children passes (and education needs), quota per company and the most important point of all - procedures and costs incurred (especially to companies wishing to employ them).

"This belies the quandary facing Sabah: should solving human resource's constraint begin by an immigration approach to legalise foreigners, or should a more comprehensive approach be adopted instead?

"Once the approval is given for plantation sector, can other industry sectors follow suit with similar requests?" asked the association.

SEA suggested that the Government look into setting up its Human Resource first, since human resource concerns 1.8 million locals and 783,000 foreigners counted as workforce in the State according to the Statistics Department's year 2016 figures.

"As often cited as one of key elements for enforcing minimum wage, the presence of illegal foreigners competing against locals have been said to push down real wages across all sectors, and causing capital outflow when salaries are repatriated.

"Would special work passes to illegal foreigners coincide with all the human resource measures designed to foster local labour participation, allow more locals to be constructively employed in the long run and be able to partake in the economic cake?" the association further asked.

It said human resource constraint is faced not just by the plantation sector but other industry sectors as well.

"It is a multi-faceted problem that requires comprehensive approach, with input from relevant stakeholders.

"A policy needs to balance the needs of various business sectors, whilst developing locals' potential to productively, jointly contribute to the economy," SEA added.

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