Foreign workers needed to propel state’s growth

Sim Kiang Chiok

KUCHING: As the government is pump-priming the economy to recover from the numerous lockdowns, there is a need for foreign workers in order to spur the various industries and economic sectors which are facing a shortage of labour, said Datuk Sim Kiang Chiok.

“In Sarawak, without these workers, we would not be able to grow several industries which require this labour force, such as plantations, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and services,” said the Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda) Kuching branch chairman.

He said the number of foreign workers in Sarawak was still small, namely about 200,000 out of the 2.8 million total population, or seven percent. As a comparison, he said Singapore had about 60 percent foreign workers compared to their local population.

He said the state government’s decision to allow foreign workers to enter Sarawak, as announced by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) on Wednesday, would be welcomed by the business sector and households which require maids.

“To allow foreign workers into our state to help generate productive works for our industries would help us to resume, restore, and grow our economy again,” he said.

He also commended the recalibration programme for qualifying undocumented immigrants as well as the quarantine and Covid-19 testing requirements for foreign workers before they commenced their employment.

“This would help us solve our labour shortage to replace those who left just before the lockdown and were unable to re-enter due to the borders being closed,” he said.

Sim said the increased fine of RM10,000 for individuals and RM50,000 for companies found breaching the Covid-19 prevention standard operating procedures (SOPs) would ensure that employers of foreign workers would adhere to the SOPs.

He pointed out that for illegal workers without a proper permit in Sarawak, the penalties for employers and agents were very high, including fine, jail term, and whipping. He said this had deterred the practice of hiring illegals (those without documents).

“The balance of life and livelihood is a fine art of science and good governance. Our country cannot be in permanent lockdown, which would save our lives but destroy our livelihood.

“Now with the availability and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines, we would be able to restore our way of life as before when we have achieved herd immunity by vaccinating 80 percent of our population,” he said.

Until this herd immunity through vaccinations is achieved, Sim urged the public to keep washing their hands, wearing face masks, and practising physical distancing.