I HAVE attended a number of small and medium industry seminars and noticed that the participants are mainly concerned about the shortage of foreign workers and the availability of SMI loans. No doubt the labour shortage and cash liquidity are two of the major issues that need to be addressed. However, just addressing these two issues is not enough.
We must remember that the world is not static, but dynamic. Countries where our foreign workers come from such as Indonesia and Vietnam are progressing well and soon they too are likely to face labour shortages. Therefore, in the long run our small and medium industries cannot totally
depend on foreign workers.
The operating environment of SMIs resembles an ecosystem chain where the survival of SMIs depends on a variety of factors such as the social and economic stability and investment from within and outside the country. The fall in foreign investment capital will definitely have a negative impact on the performance of SMIs in the downstream. Therefore, it is important for us to maintain a conducive environment to attract local and foreign investments.
The Japanese ambassador to Malaysia, Masahiko Horie, recently said that Japanese companies in Malaysia are concerned about the shortage of labour and knowledge-based skilled workers. If the situation persists , they may relocate their labour-intensive plants.
We must not take this lightly and hopefully the relevant government agencies will arrange a dialogue with them to identify their needs.
Malaysia is now facing the problem that Taiwan SMIs faced at the turn of the 20 century. At that time Taiwan’s small and medium enterprises were dependent on foreign workers. I remember a friend who went to Taiwan to become a vegetable stall assistant in a market.
Tough measures against the illegal foreign workers and better job opportunities in Malaysia drew back many Malaysians working in Taiwan. As a result, many small and medium enterprises in Taiwan faced labour shortages.
The Taiwanese government and SMIs took a series of effective measures to adjust themselves to the change, which included relocating labour intensive industries to mainland China, adoption of automation and efficient workflow systems, changing the attitude of youngsters towards blue- collar jobs through certification programmes.
It is high time that we learn from Taiwan’s small and medium enterprises on how they tackled their problems