PETALING JAYA | The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) wants the government to expedite approvals for foreign worker applications to meet the urgent need for manpower in the hospitality sector.

Last month, tourism, arts and culture minister Nancy Shukri said Malaysia surpassed the target of two million incoming tourist arrivals for the year on June 21 after the country’s borders reopened on April 1, adding that a new target of 4.5 million has now been set.

Despite the good news, Tony Goh, who heads MAH’s Penang chapter, said the labour shortage in the hospitality sector means hotels may not be able to fully capitalise on the influx of tourists.

“Hotels are faced with a manpower shortage of around 25% compared to when the movement control order (MCO) was first implemented,” he said.

“Even though salaries have been increased in line with the RM1,500 minimum wage rate which came into effect from May 1, we are having problems attracting local workers.

“The government needs to look into this seriously and immediately approve the recruitment of foreign workers, including in sectors related to hospitality such as food preparation and so on,” he added.

Goh added that while most hotels offer salaries of RM1,600 to RM2,000 and housing allowance, that has not been enough to entice locals.

The president of the Malaysian Budget and Business Hotel Association (MyBHA), Sri Ganesh Michiel, also called for the approval process for foreign workers for the hotel sector to be expedited in order to solve the manpower shortage.

“I hear the government is talking about speeding up the approval process for foreign workers, but until now, we haven’t seen any outcome,” he said.

Malaysia currently lacks at least 1.2 million workers in the various sectors, namely manufacturing (627,000), plantation (120,000) and construction (550,000), largely due to the freeze on foreign worker recruitment which was implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The freeze was lifted in February, with human resources minister M Saravanan previously attributing the slow recruitment of new workers to incomplete information or lack of compliance with regulations.

Last month, he said that while his ministry received 200,000 online applications for foreign workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Cambodia for various sectors, these applications had to be put on hold due to technical matters, recruitment procedures, and the signing of memorandums with agencies in the countries involved.





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