KUCHING: The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) concurs with the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) about many locals shunning the opportunity to be involved in this sector, even with good wages being offered.
It is because of this that the industry has no other options but to hire foreign workers who seem to be more willing to do the job that many locals consider as ‘4Ds’ – ‘dirty, difficult, dangerous, and demeaning’.
“The majority of Malaysians actually employed in the palm oil industry, who comprise some 20 per cent, are in the management and staff levels, while the foreign workers who make up the other 80 per cent, are in field operations.
“As highlighted in MPOA report, even with the current good price of crude palm oil (CPO), farmers cannot benefit as there is an acute shortage of workers in the industry, caused mainly by the Covid-19 pandemic which has prevented foreign workers from coming in since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March 2020,” said Soppoa in a statement yesterday.
Moreover, it observed that the acute workers shortage in Sarawak was similar to the situation in Peninsular Malaysia, with the locals being choosy when – they would rather be unemployed and expect subsidies than be involved in ‘4D plantation work’.
“Despite advertisements and other job offers being published on newspapers, social media, radio broadcast and other platforms, the number of locals applying for jobs offered by the plantation companies is still very low.
“The main reason why foreign workers choose to work in the plantation industry is because they are willing to work hard and in tough conditions in order to provide for themselves and also for their families in their home countries.
“They are desperate for work as hungry bellies ultimately push them to seek work that could pay well and guarantee long-term engagement as well – many foreign workers have been working in the industry here for quite a long time,” it said, believing that many Malaysian youths today ‘are too complacent and cannot endure the harsh environment working in the plantations, even with high pay offers’.
“Some of them (local youths) just do not possess the stamina or mentality to withstand hardship as they are just neither desperate enough nor hungry enough.
“It’s timely that Malaysian youths reconsider the opportunities in the plantation sector because in this digital era, jobs would become less available for those without the necessary IT skills, and automation would eventually replace the jobs done by thousands of people in other sectors; however, estate works would always be available as many plantation tasks are still not easily replaced by robots or machinery.
“The palm oil sector has proven to be sustainable and a ‘lifesaver’ even amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic and the economic recession,” added Soppoa.