PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s plan to open up foreign worker recruitment to 15 countries may have already run into a stumbling block – some of the source countries have little knowledge about the hiring process.

The government announced a few days ago that migrant workers from these countries could be employed in the manufacturing, construction, and service sectors.

According to the Home Ministry’s website, the 15 countries are India, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Kazakhstan.

The Turkmenistan embassy said they don’t have any details about their nationals working in any of the three sectors.

However, a spokesman said they had some who worked in the oil and gas industry.

Checks with several other embassies over their migrant labour force also proved futile. National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma) president Zarina Ismail said the lack of information was likely because each country’s Foreign Ministry was still working on notifying the respective embassies.

“Our ministers only announced it on Monday,” she said.

Commenting on the list of countries, Zarina said those whose currencies’ values are similar to or better than Malaysia’s, like Turkmenistan, are not likely to come to work here.

Unskilled workers from eastern Asian countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are also not likely to come.

“We may have some skilled workers from these countries coming, but not the unskilled ones,” she said. Malaysia needs more unskilled workers in many industries.

Agensi Pekerjaan Associates HR (KL) Sdn Bhd managing director Kelvin Cheong also said eastern Asian countries like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan should not be on the list.

He said Indonesia and Bangladesh were the preferred source countries because they could work in many fields.

“All source countries have their niche. Some are better at working in certain fields,” he said.

Meanwhile, the business fraternity said the announcement was nothing new and wanted the government to put more focus on bringing in sufficient foreign workers to meet all industries’ demand.

SME Association president Ding Hong Sing said the government had made the announcement “too soon” without sufficient preparations.

“For now, we don’t know if all the 15 countries have an understanding or deal with Malaysia on the hiring of foreign labour, or if they are willing to supply the workers.

“There has been very little information made available to employers,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan also said the government must engage with industry players to resolve the issues instead of having unnecessary policies in place.

He said that some of these policies are that workers with high blood pressure or diabetes can’t work because of the Fomema health screening and that these foreign workers can only work for five years.

“We should be looking or emulating how the United Arab Emirates or Singapore handle their foreign workers,” he said.

Every employer, said Cheong, would have to apply via the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS), which is now under the Human Resources Ministry.

“You need to have an account and upload all your company documents from turnover and the Employee Provident Fund to the company profile.

“The ratio is 1:1 (one local to one foreigner) for small and medium enterprises, but your revenue has to be RM2mil. For giant organisations which export products, the ratio is 1:3 (one local to three foreigners),” he said. Cheong said the sore point with Indonesia was the Online Maid System (SMO) which Jakarta feels allows its nationals to come into the country without the embassy being informed and without proper documentation through job orders or attestation between agencies and employers.

“The Indonesian government prefers the One Channel System, where both Indonesian and Malaysian agencies are involved,” he said.

On this, Zarina said SMO had been used by other countries that send domestic workers.

“The SMO is Malaysia’s right and has been used by other countries, such as the Philippines.

“If some find it not good enough, let’s fine-tune it and make it better, instead of halting the sending of workers,” she said.

Zarina noted that there had been few cases of illegal Filipino maids in Malaysia because their government questioned each citizen who attempted to leave the country.

Association of Employment Agencies Malaysia (Papa) vice-president Suresh Tan also said that recruitment agencies could be allowed to access the SMO if workers’ welfare was the main concern.

While the new OCS was not in place yet, Tan said doing away with the SMO would leave employers with no way to apply for Indonesian workers.