Malaysian businesses, from palm oil plantations to semiconductor manufacturers, are declining orders and foregoing billions in sales due to a labor shortage of more than a million employees, which is jeopardizing the country’s recovery.
Despite lifting a COVID-19 freeze on recruiting foreign workers in February, Malaysia has not seen a significant return of migrant workers.
Export-reliant Malaysia relies on millions of foreigners for factory, plantation, and service sector jobs.
Malaysian manufacturers fear losing customers to other countries as growth picks up.
The palm oil industry warns that 3 million tonnes of the crop could be lost this year as fruit rots unpicked, costing $4 billion.
Bangladesh signed an agreement in December to send workers, but implementation was delayed.
Diplomats from Indonesia and Bangladesh said workers’ rights were part of the hold-up. Dhaka protested Malaysia’s proposed hiring process, citing fears the plan could lead to increased costs. The United States has banned seven Malaysian companies over the last two years over what Washington called forced labor.