PUTRAJAYA: The government has agreed to extend the temporary work permits for more than 300,000 foreign workers, registered under the 6P programme, for a year with immediate effect.
Home Ministry acting secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim said the decision came after the government had weighed what the impact of a sudden decrease in the workforce would have on the economy and to give time to employers to find replacement workers.
â€œThe government realises that the loss of workforce in a large number will cause a sudden and major impact on businesses and the economy.
â€œHence, the cabinet has agreed to the one-year extension, allowing employers who have yet to send their foreign workers to their home countries to prepare for their replacements.â€ He said this after attending a meeting between Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Indonesian Manpower Minister Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri here yesterday.
He said the extension applied only to those who had their temporary work permits under the 6P programme and were legally employed.
â€œThis extension is effective immediately.
Any employer who intends to continue employing foreign workers during the extension period may apply for the renewal of the temporary work permit at Immigration offices nationwide.â€ Alwi reminded employers to send workers back to their countries at the end of next year.
He said based on the Immigration Departmentâ€™s records, 352,493 foreign workers, registered under the 6P programme, would complete their term as stipulated in the programme at the end of this year or next month.
On Monday, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, in appealing to the government to extend the temporary work permits, had cautioned that failure to do so would lead to the recruitment of unskilled workers to replace them.
This, Shamsuddin said, would cause severe manpower shortages in key industries and would affect the countryâ€™s economic growth.
He was also quoted in a report on Wednesday as saying that employers might need to spend RM2.5 billion to recruit new foreign workers to replace those sent home under the 6P programme.
In August 2011, the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers implemented the 6P programme to reduce the number of immigrants who entered the country illegally or who had overstayed their work permits.
Under the Registration, Legalisation, Amnesty, Supervision, Enforcement and Deportation programme (abbreviated in Bahasa Malaysia to 6P), illegal foreign workers were required to register with the Home Ministry and have their fingerprints recorded in a biometric system.
Under the 6P programme, foreigners in the service sector were issued temporary work visiting passes lasting two years, while those working in manufacturing, construction and plantations received three years.
The cabinetâ€™s decision for the extension came two days after the government insisted that foreign workers must return to their home countries next month and observe the compulsory six-month cooling-off period before returning to Malaysia.
Immigration Department deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi was quoted as saying that those with temporary work visit passes under the 6P programme must honour the understanding agreed upon in 2011.
He also said employers should have taken proactive measures to prepare for the â€œexodusâ€ of their workers, as they were aware of the situation since 2011.
Sakib said the government did not want the foreigners to remain in Malaysia continuously for more than five years, as they could then request for permanent resident status.-NST