The freeze on the intake of foreign workers from mid-February has resulted in business losses of an estimated RM24 billion, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
According to Ahmad Zahid, the ongoing freeze has hurt businesses in several sectors and is also eating into the Government’s revenues.
“For example, in the plantation sector, the lack of foreign workers had resulted in RM2 billion in losses due to fruits left unharvested,” he said in Dewan Negara on Thursday.
He added that 24 furniture manufacturers in Muar, Johor closed down because of a lack of foreign workers.
The disruption in businesses resulting from the shortage of foreign manpower has also caused the government to lose revenue from taxes, Ahmad Zahid revealed.
To tackle this, the Deputy Prime Minister said that flexibility was given to several sub-sectors to recruit foreign workers.
The infrastructure construction sector for one, has been exempted from the freeze. This followed appeals from various associations after infrastructure projects in the Klang Valley, namely for transportation, suffered from the freeze.
Ahmad Zahid also divulged that the Cabinet had approved for the setting up of a National Clearing House that will look at the immediate needs for the affected sectors.
Elsewhere, the Human Resources Ministry, Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and several other agencies will carry out a study to determine the actual need for foreign workers according to their sectors.
“The findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Special Cabinet Committee On Foreign Workers which will decide on what best to do,” he said.
In the meantime, he shared that a total of 5,622 operations were carried out to weed out illegal foreign workers.
Of the 91,075 workers checked, 27,369 were found to be without documents or abusing their work permits. A total of 32,803 illegal workers were deported as a result.
Ahmad Zahid added that 662 employers were also charged for hiring illegal workers while authorities had crippled seven syndicates involved in supply illegal foreign workers.
As of June 13, 124,279 illegals workers were rehired under a rehiring programme.