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Malaysia sourcing overseas labour for construction projects

Malaysia's booming construction industry is moving at such a pace that the country is struggling to keep up with labour requirements.

The sector has been a key stimulant of the economy in recent years and this looks set to be a cornerstone of GDP growth in the mid- to long-term, though one side-effect is that the nation is running short on qualified workers required needed for new building projects.

Last month, government figures showed that the Malaysian construction sector recorded a 10.7 per cent growth to RM25.3 billion in the third quarter of 2014, compared to the year before, which was also an increase on Q2 of this year.

The industry has now been registering positive growth since the third quarter of 2011, with the the construction of non-residential buildings proving particularly profitable in 2014, with 34.5 per cent growth in the last quarter alone.

Equally, the civil engineering sub-sector (31 per cent), residential buildings (30 per cent) and special trades (4.5 per cent) all recorded significant growth, helping to spur on the wider sector.

Knock-on effects

The key side-effect of such growth, however, has been an increased need for new workers who have both the skills and experience required to spearhead new projects.

Almost every week, Malaysia is seeing major investment in new buildings and projects, with Stelis Biopharma, a subsidiary of India's Strides Arcolab, recently beginning construction of a $60 million biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility at the Bio-Xcell Biotechnology Park located in Nusajaya, Johor.

The 140,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed in the next two years, and will employ about 180 people when it is finally operational in mid-2017, but a key challenge of the build programme has been ensuring that workers have the necessary skills in place to ensure the facility is constructed to the highest standard.

Looking overseas

In order to solve similar problems, Malaysia is looking to other nations where heavy emphasis is placed on certain skills and - although the sourcing of workers from countries such as North Korea has drawn a certain amount of criticism - the government has been keen to stress that the employment of any such staff is completely valid.

Deputy home minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar recently commented: "There are many people from communist countries working in our country and having businesses here. All we require is that they come here legally, work legally and stay free of trouble with our laws. They all have valid work and immigration permits."

As Malaysia's economy and its booming construction industry continue to prosper, it is clear that the country will continue to source the very best staff needed to work on major new projects and complete them to the highest possible standard.

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