KOTA KINABALU: A comprehensive study needs to be done on the federal government’s proposal to issue temporary work permits to illegal immigrants to address the shortage of workers in the plantation and industrial sectors.
Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) vice-president Arthur Joseph Kurup said priority should be given to Malaysians in these sectors, as many young people had lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Many of them (Malaysians) have to return to their hometowns to tend to crops, work as food delivery riders, become petty traders to eke out a living and survive,” he said.
On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was reported to have said that the government was considering issuing temporary work permits to illegal immigrants in the country to overcome the shortage of workers in the oil palm and rubber industries.
However, Kurup, who is a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said Malaysian labour statistics showed that the unemployment rate in August was 4.7%, or 741,600 people, which is rather high, an indication that locals were looking for job opportunities.
“The government should look at these figures and give priority to the local people. Let us not assume that they do not want to work if we do not offer this opportunity to them,” he said.
Job opportunities in the plantation and industrial sectors need to be upgraded so that the sectors can attract youth, thus reducing the dependence on foreign workers, he said.
“If these jobs are filled by locals then we can reduce the flow of money overseas and the money can stay within the country to stimulate the economy.
“The offer to foreign workers should be the last option and only if locals do not take up the job opportunities in those sectors,” he added.