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March 16, 2009

Malaysia reduces number of foreign workers

Malaysia has slashed its work permit approvals for foreign workers by almost 70 per cent so far this year, faced with the twin threat of layoffs and recession, according to a report on Sunday.

In January and February, an average of 250 permits were approved daily compared to 800 last year, following a more stringent vetting process by the authorities, a Home Ministry official told the Star newspaper.

'Those requesting for foreign labour have to prove that they have made the effort to employ locals,' the ministry's senior deputy secretary-general Raja Azahar Raja Abdul Manap was quoted as saying.

'If they can prove it, then they will get the clearance,' he said.

In January, Malaysia banned the hiring of new foreigners in the manufacturing and services sectors after a report forecast 45,000 Malaysians would lose their jobs in the next few months.

And last week, the government cancelled work visas issued to 55,000 Bangladeshi workers after unions said the situation for Malaysians was bleak enough without additional foreign manpower being brought in.

Malaysia is one of Asia's largest importers of labour and has an estimated 2.2 million foreign workers, who are the mainstay of the plantation and manufacturing sectors.

However, the government has become concerned about the ramifications of having such a large migrant workforce and periodically tries to reduce it.

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