GEORGE TOWN: The gradual arrival of over 300,000 unskilled foreign workers will help ease the desperate labour shortage faced by local businesses since borders were closed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Lee Teong Li said although the issue has not been completely resolved, the Human Resources Ministry had given the approval.

“The ministry approved 383,000 foreign worker quota nationwide and of the number, 300,000 of their levies had been paid,” he added.

According to the Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta), these workers will start arriving by the end of the month and nearly all of them are meant for the manufacturing sector.

Samenta southern chairman Dr Louis Ooi said SMI manufacturers had been waiting for this much-needed labour force.

“The security vetting was completed much earlier without much fuss while the whole process would need about two months before the workers are allowed to fly over.

“Our members received the approvals from the relevant agencies after they paid the agents RM1,500 per head and a levy of RM1,800 each.

“Most members will receive the number of foreign workers as requested, and they will be here starting from the end of this month,” he said.

In the meantime, Samenta secretary-general Yeoh Seng Hooi said member companies have continued their recruitment of local workers, even though prospects are dim.

“Locals are reluctant to take up the job offers.

“SMEs have been trying to hire locals but face difficulty in doing so, especially in sectors such as food and beverage, production and retail.

“The vacancies are there but locals appear to be more interested in the gig economy or becoming resellers in the e-commerce space,” he said.

Nearly all sectors in Malaysia suffered serious worker shortages since 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Previous foreign workers returned to their home countries after their contracts ended to be with their families during the pandemic, and the closure of borders prevented new intakes.

It was reported that factories could not fill orders because of the worker shortages while hotel managers and back-office executives in finance and administration, for example, had to perform housekeeping tasks.

On Aug 29, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said about 47,000 foreign workers had entered Malaysia to fill in the gaps in the labour force.

He said a further intake of 390,000 workers were approved.