The new Pakatan Harapan government should implement the ban on foreign workers in stages, Wanita MCA said today.
Its vice-chairperson Ong Chong Swen said the government must first provide a comprehensive transformative package to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to gradually change their mode of operations which are too dependent on foreign workers, to achieve a win-win situation.
"The government's crackdown on foreign workers should not be too aggressive. The total crackdown on foreign workers does not benefit any sector," she said in a statement.
On the contrary, Ong added, a shortage of foreign workers would cause an industry or sector to be paralysed.
She said that is why it is necessary for the government to have a more comprehensive strategy, and this includes providing various targeted incentives and assistance, as well as introducing modern technology to increase competitiveness.
This assistance from the government will allow the industry to gradually transform and add value to their services, Ong said.
Right now, she said, SMEs face the common problem of a lack of funds to expand their businesses, as well as a lack of access to international markets and lack of government assistance.
This was why the government needed to assist SMEs in order to facilitate the transformation process.
SMEs that rely on the low-cost employment of foreign workers will be less willing to implement mechanisation or the use of modern technology, she said.
"Therefore, if the government provides a comprehensive transformation assistance programme, the SMEs will be encouraged to gradually change the mode of operation that depends mainly on foreign workers," Ong said.
The government assistance will also help to push industry players to embrace technology-intensive or knowledge-intensive industry transformation, she added.
The discussion on foreign workers was recently reignited after the new Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran mooted the idea for restaurants in the country to hire only local cooks.
However, his suggestion was widely criticised, especially by netizens on social media.