The Malaysian Human Resources Ministry has explained that the move to recruit up to 12,000 Bangladeshis to work in Sarawak remains an estimate.
“The demand for 12,000 workers is based on feedback conveyed by the stakeholders, in particular, the plantation sector,” its minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem said.
The Bangladeshis are general labourers who are to be specifically hired for the oil palm sector.
“They are those who are willing to take up jobs that are categorised as dirty, difficult and dangerous – which are shunned by Malaysian job seekers,” said Riot in response to the furore on social media when the proposal was first raised.
An Oct 21 Bernama report, quoting Bangladeshi High Commissioner to Malaysia, A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman, said that 12,000 Bangladeshis would be recruited to work in Sarawak. This came about following a request from the ministry to send skilled and semi-skilled workers to Sarawak.
However, in a statement on Friday, Riot said the ministry was just “as concerned as any other citizen of the country and the people of Sarawak with regards to the employment of foreign labour in the country”.
“It has always been the Government’s policy to give priority to Malaysian job seekers,” he said.
His statement added that the Sarawak’s Department of Labour had organised various job placement programmes, with the most recent being the Program Penempatan Pekerjaan Azam Kerja 1Malaysia on Sept 27 and 28 at the Kuching indoor stadium – an event that included employers in the plantation industry offering jobs on-the-spot to Sarawakians.
“Altogether, 5,846 jobs were offered and 1,361 jobs were taken up,” he said.
“Regrettably, there were no takers in the plantation sector. If not for the foreign labour, the plantation sector, would have collapsed,” said Riot, adding that the current unemployment rate in Sarawak was 2.3%, compared to 2.7% at national level.
“At the international level, any figure lower than 4% is regarded as full employment,” Riot pointed out.