Construction sector slows down due to shortage of 5,600 workers

A file photo of a construction site in Kuching.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Oct 23: The construction sector in Sarawak is not operating in full capacity yet due to shortage of about 5,600 workers especially foreign workers as a result of pandemic restrictions imposed on entry into the state.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that the state economy has recovered albeit not fully as productivity and growth in various sectors and industries have slowed down especially in construction and tourism.

“Works have resumed on major projects but there is a problem with workers especially foreign workers. We are short of 5,600 workers for the construction sector as some (foreign workers) had gone back (to their countries) before the Movement Control Order (MCO).

“Now that we have imposed restrictions on entry into Sarawak, some were not able to come back which led to attempt in using ‘jalan tikus’ (illegal routes),” he told a press conference on Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here today.

As such, Abang Johari explained that a committee has been set up under the chairmanship of Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion to look into the details on how to solve the problem with foreign workers.

However, he also emphasised that the huge shortage of skilled workers could also be translated to over 5,000 jobs available in the state.

“So the committee will also look into maybe reskilling our local workers. We get them to upgrade their skills so that they can be involved in the construction sector and also train them to meet the needs of sectors in demand,” he said.

He noted that the big shortage of workers had affected many projects’ schedules with delays for at least four months or more, but other sectors such as plantations and agriculture were not as bad as most were smallholders.

“But there are certain jobs which can apply robotics such as utilised in assembly line (in a production) like to help in transferring materials on site. You may not need physical labour to do that.

“The state government is willing to invest in automation to help the sector. This could be one of the solutions,” he added.

Sarawak, Abang Johari reiterated, cannot compromise on its measures to protect the people from the Covid-19 pandemic which has enabled the state to maintain a low number of cases today. —DayakDaily