World

Malaysia requires foreign
workers to take induction
course for visa

Malaysia has made it compulsory for all foreign workers to take a course to learn about Malaysia before coming to the country, a minister said Tuesday.

Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam said the induction course became mandatory this month to ensure workers know the country's customs, culture, language and laws before getting a work visa.

Indonesians are exempt from the language requirement because the two dialects spoken in the neighboring countries are similar, he said.

The course is aimed at familiarizing foreign workers with "what they should and shouldn't do (and) to reduce the risk of them getting into trouble when they are here," Subramaniam told The Associated Press.

Malaysia - a country of 27 million people - relies heavily on more than 2 million foreign laborers for mostly menial tasks, such as plantation, construction, and restaurant and domestic work.

But Malaysians also complain that foreign workers are ill-equipped for working here and are responsible for the rising crime - an unsubstantiated claim from statistics. Several highly publicized cases of foreign worker abuse have further marred the issue.

Subramaniam said the courses would take place in the workers' home countries, but Malaysia would supply the materials and train instructors.

Indonesian Embassy spokeswoman Shanti Utami criticized the new ruling, saying it would scare off Indonesian workers, who make up more than half of the foreign labor force.

She said Indonesian employment agencies were "very reluctant" to deal with the new regulation and pay the course fees of at least 120 ringgit (US$37).

"It is a very high price," she told the AP. "We have a common culture so I don't think this should be compulsory." (*)

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