Budget 2020: Women@work initiative will help fill vacancies of foreign workers, says MEF exec director

John Bunyan
The Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said wage incentives and income tax exemption offered to the women who return to work is very attractive and could them back to the workforce. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

IPOH, Oct 11 — Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said that the introduction of Women@work in the Budget 2020 will help to fill the vacancy left by foreign workers.

He said wage incentives and income tax exemption offered to the women who return to work is very attractive and could them back to the workforce.

“Mostly, women who are married and started their own family, they won’t return to the workforce. But with incentives and tax exemption introduced, it would attract, which will help the government’s effort to reduce foreign workers,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Shamsuddin pointed out that women’s participation in the workforce is currently only 55 per cent.

“If we can increase the number to 65 per cent. Then we would have an additional one million female labour force.

“And obviously with the right training and incentives, they can fill up the vacancy left by foreign workers.

“However, I’m not saying that they must directly do the kind of work being done by foreign workers. In the budget itself, we talk about the incentives given to new technologies, mechanisation and automation. We can modernise the job for them,” he added.

Shamsuddin pointed out that rebranding the job’s name would help women and also men to fill up the jobs left by the foreign workers.

 “Of course, when you ask the locals to accept the cleaning job with broom and mop they would not prefer doing it. But with modernisation by using machine to assist them doing the work and rebranding the name of the job, like for example changing the cleaner title to environmental assistant, would be more attractive to them.

“I urge the government, relevant industries and also the workers to come together and exchange opinions on how to make these jobs attractive enough for the local to perform,” he added.

However, he also said that the wages for the work has to be reviewed and the workers should be rewarded based on their productivity and performance.

Under Women@work, women will be paid RM500 per month for two years by the government, and a corresponding hiring incentive will be given for employers up to RM300 per month for two years.

Furthermore, they will also exempted from income tax exemption, with a career break will be extended for another four years until 2023.

He also lauded the government for giving the similar incentives for graduates who are unemployed for the last 12 months.

“This will help reduce unemployment among graduate especially those have been without a job for the last 12 months.

“Based on what has been mentioned in the budget, more than 140,000 are unemployed. This is serious and if we are able to reduce this number, then the possibility for the unemployed to get jobs in the future will be even harder,” he said.

However, he added that similar incentives, with less percentage of the amount, should also be given to the fresh graduates and the employers who hire them in order to help this category of people.

“If we focus only on those who are unemployed for the last 12 months only, then the newly graduate might have to face the consequences of this,” he said.

Similarly, Teh Boon Teck a political analyst from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) said that incentives given to those unemployed graduates who enter job for the first time is unfair to non-graduates.

“Government should allocate this fund to help those employed graduates whose salaries are below rm2000 and still have to repay PTPTN instead. This will help to resolve loan repayment problem among employed graduates,” he said.

Teh also said the government should encourage unemployed graduates and non graduates to enrol in vocational courses.

“Our country is lack of skilled workers. So government can allocate subsidy for their living expenses. Once they have acquired skill sets, it’s easier for them to find a job,” he added.

Teh also pointed out that some employers would take advantage by offering low salaries to unemployed graduates after knowing that they receive incentives from the government.

He also said those unemployed, who are not are not graduate will be the victim of unemployment as employers may want to hire graduates as they would be receiving the incentives as well.

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