Bloomberg News

Malaysia Plans to Cut Reliance on Overseas Workers, Mustapa Says

March 05, 2013

Malaysia plans to reduce its reliance on foreign workers by phasing out labor-intensive industries and monitoring investments closely.

The government wants a “manageable” number of overseas workers, Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s trade and industry minister, told reporters in Singapore today.

“We are moving up the value chain,” Mustapa said. “Malaysia is not a place for purely labor-intensive industries,” he said, adding that while the nation will continue to need foreign workers in plantations, restaurants and as domestic helpers, it will be “more selective” in evaluating investment proposals from companies.

Malaysia joins neighboring Singapore in planning to reduce its reliance on overseas workers to appease voters. Singapore tightened curbs on foreign labor for a fourth straight year in its budget last month amid public discontent over infrastructure strains and record-high housing and transport costs after the population jumped by more than 1.1 million since mid-2004.

Malaysia has about 3 million foreign workers, of whom almost half are illegal, Mustapa said. The opposition has proposed reducing the number of overseas laborers to 1 million, he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak must dissolve parliament by April 28 and hold elections within 60 days. The ruling National Front will do “a bit better” in elections this year than in 2008, Mustapa said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sharon Chen in Singapore at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at

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