A recent move by Malaysia to limit employment of foreign workers will impact Bangladeshis there as many of them have remained jobless amid Covid-19 pandemic.
If this plan is executed, insiders said, many workers will have to return home and fresh recruitment will be a far cry because of shrinking job opportunities there.
According to the Malay Mail, the government has decided to limit foreign workers to work in only three sectors to ensure jobs to local people.
The move has been made as the local economy has been badly hit by the pandemic and the movement
control order (MCO) that followed, it reported.
"We've made a decision to allow foreign workers for only three sectors-construction, agriculture and plantation…," said deputy human resources minister Awang Solahudin on July 29.
"The other sectors we want to fill up with local workers. This will be part of our guideline to decrease foreign worker intake," he added.
However, Bangladeshis are working in different sectors, including service and manufacturing, in the Southeast Asian country. A significant number of them remained out of work since the outbreak of coronavirus.
Abu Haiyat, a Malaysia-based Bangladeshi freelance researcher, said many foreign workers like Bangladeshis will lose jobs if this latest move is executed.
Foreigners who are working in service and other sectors may be sent home after expiry of their contracts when Malaysia will implement this plan, he added.
That means employers will not extend their work permit, Mr Haiyat observed.
He said many Bangladeshi workers, especially those who have no proper documents, are already facing an uncertain situation in getting jobs.
As health certificate is mandatory to join the work, many of the workers fell uneasy as they think they can be arrested if they have no documents, he added.
The migration expert, however, said the number of jobs in construction sector may also decline following the current economic slowdown.
In this situation, he said, if Malaysia opens its market for Bangladeshis in future, fresh recruitment will not increase at a required level.
Malaysia has stopped recruiting Bangladeshi workers since September 01, 2018, following sharp practice in migration process. Since then, Bangladesh has been continuing diplomatic efforts.
The two countries have so far held three joint working group meetings to this effect.
Another meeting was due for February in Dhaka to discuss the reopening issue, but it was postponed because of a sudden political change in Malaysia.
Wishing anonymity, some workers said they could not join the work as their employer did not call them.
Even they have remained unpaid in the past three months, thus living in an uncertain condition.
Meanwhile, different trade groups in Malaysia have criticised such decision, saying that it will affect the economy.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress said restricting the use of foreign workers to only three sectors amounts to economic suicide, reported Free Malaysia Today, a Malaysian news portal, on Tuesday.
Secretary general J Solomon of the federation said: "The reality is that foreign labour is deeply embedded in Malaysia's economy and confining migrant labourers to work in just three sectors seems to be an act of economic self-immolation by the government."
He urged the government to reconsider its policies.
Malaysian Employers Federation also said this restriction would further devastate other industries trying to recover from the MCO.
Its statistics show an estimated 2.0 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia. Of them, 42 per cent or 837,800 were employed in construction, agriculture and plantation sectors.
The rest were in manufacturing (about 700,000), services (about 309,000) and domestic work (about 130,000), the federation cited.
According to the local Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, more than 1.0 million Bangladeshi workers have gone to Malaysia in the past four decades.
They mainly work in construction and service sectors.