Malaysia to Halt Migrant Worker Inflows: A Major Blow to Bangladeshi Employment Prospects

Last Updated on May 30, 2024 10:15 am

In a significant policy shift, Malaysia has declared that starting from June 1, it will no longer accept migrant workers from Bangladesh and 15 other countries. This decision, confirmed by the Malaysian High Commissioner to Dhaka, Haznah Md Hashim, is poised to have substantial repercussions on Bangladesh’s labor market and economy.

“Malaysia’s move to halt the intake of foreign workers is a major setback for us,” stated Ali Haider Chowdhury, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira). “Malaysia has been one of our largest employment markets.”

Last year alone, Malaysia was the second-largest overseas job destination for Bangladeshi workers, with over 400,000 individuals migrating since the reopening of its labor market in 2022. The cessation of worker admissions will disrupt this crucial economic pathway, affecting both the workers and their families who rely on remittances.

Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Human Resources Minister Steven Sim have indicated that this suspension is part of a broader labor recalibration strategy. According to the New Straits Times, new recruitment decisions will be made post-assessment of the current worker quotas and the results of the labor recalibration program (RTK2.0), which ends on June 30, 2024. The Malaysian government has set a cap on foreign workers, limiting them to 15 percent of the total workforce by 2025.

As of mid-March, Malaysia hosts about 2.17 million foreign workers, based on data from the Malaysian Immigration Department. The government plans to review the existing quota before deciding on any new recruitment policies.

The backdrop to this decision includes a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2021 between Bangladesh and Malaysia, which ended a nearly four-year ban on labor imports. This moratorium was initially imposed due to allegations of malpractice and irregularities by a “syndicate” of Bangladeshi recruiting agencies.

For Bangladesh, this development not only impacts the workers currently planning to migrate but also poses a challenge to its broader economic framework that heavily depends on remittances from overseas workers. The suspension underscores the need for Bangladesh to diversify its overseas job markets and strengthen bilateral labor agreements to safeguard its economic interests.

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