Bangladesh can reap great benefits from Malaysia's requirement for six lakh foreign workers by 2022 if it ensures that the country's labour market reopens for Bangladeshi workers in the coming months.
The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), in a statement on Saturday, said the country needs over 600,000 foreign workers by next year in order for the industrial sector, especially export-based companies, to overcome the current acute manpower shortage it is facing, some Malaysian newspapers reported.
Meanwhile, Malaysia has also identified Bangladesh as a second source country for migrant security guards based on an earlier MoU signed between the countries.
Local manpower recruiters said that if Bangladesh wants to benefit from the labour shortage in Malaysia, it must act fast as the Malaysian labour market has been closed to Bangladesh since 2018.
"Bangladesh and Malaysia have been negotiating to reopen the labour market for the last two years. The Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment informed us that the market may reopen within January next year," said Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).
If the market reopens, Bangladesh can capitalise on the huge demand for foreign workers, he added.
Malaysia is home to around eight lakh Bangladeshis, according to unofficial estimates.
In Saturday's statement by FMM, its President Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said, "It is feared that if the urgent manpower needs are not addressed quickly, it could derail the recovery of the industries, including their ability to meet their orders in hand and expansion plans."
He said a survey of manpower demand found a shortage of about 22,000 workers in early October.
The survey found a shortage of about 14,000 skilled general workers, technicians, mechanics and engineers in the lower/unskilled general labour department.
Besides, manufacturing and sub-sectors like food and beverages, chemicals and various chemical products, manufactured metals and rubber products had the highest deficit.
He called for concerted efforts, including structural policy changes, to reduce long-term dependence on foreign workers.
Shahadat Hossain, proprietor, 4-Site International, a recruiting agency, told The Business Standard, "Unskilled workers are more interested in going to Malaysia than the Middle East now due to better work environment and salaries, but we cannot meet the demand as the Malaysian labour market has remained closed."
Earlier, the expat minister had on numerous occasions said the Malaysian labour market would reopen to Bangladesh soon, but it has yet to happen.
The Business Standard tried to contact the minister over phone, but he did not respond.
Malaysia suspended hiring Bangladeshi workers in September, 2018 over allegations of malpractices in the recruitment process and high recruitment costs.
Malaysia to recruit security guards from Bangladesh
The Malaysian Security Industry Association (PIKM) has identified Bangladesh as a second source country for migrant security guards, following some 30,000 vacancies left by Nepali guards who are currently the only ones allowed to be employed in the profession, reports Malaysiakini, a news portal of Malaysia.
The PIKM and Bangladesh's Sena Kalyan Sangstha signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday in this regard.
"Even though Bangladeshis are involved in various jobs in Malaysia, only Nepalis have the opportunity to get jobs as security guards. But the government plans to look at Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines as new source countries to fill vacancies in the security services sector," Ahmadul Kabir, a Bangladeshi journalist based in Malaysia, told TBS over phone.
"A new horizon will open if job opportunities are created for Bangladeshis. The Bangladesh's Sena Kalyan Sangstha has a recruiting agency, which will send the security guards," he added.
Kabir also said that the recruitment of the guards was being done under a previous MoU, which was renewed recently.
"We cannot, however, send the security guards until the labour market formally opens for Bangladesh. As the Malaysian government has renewed the MoU, we expect the labour market to open soon."