BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN –  The Ministry of Home Affairs will soon impose new limits on the number of foreign workers employed in certain sectors in order to provide more opportunities to local jobseekers.

Speaking on the fourth day of the Legislative Council meeting yesterday, Minister of Home Affairs YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said that the ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry (MEMI), will implement the Local and Foreign Workforce Ratio (NTA), that will enable more positions in the private sector to be filled by locals.

He said that since the introduction of the Foreign Workers License (LPA) — a labour processing system introduced in 2016 — 1,716 vacancies that were initially meant for foreign workers have been filled by locals as of December last year.

Under this system, companies looking to hire have to submit proof that they have registered and advertised their vacancies at JobCentre Brunei, who will first try to source applicants locally, through skills matching with registered local jobseekers.

“In the meantime, our next step is to impose a ratio on foreign workers or responsible foreign worker displacement ratio that will be at a fixed rate so that more private sector posts can be filled up by locals, especially in several industrial sectors,” said the minister.

The Labour Department, during a briefing with employers and company owners from the retail and wholesale sector earlier this month, identified a total of eight sectors will be affected by the NTA:

  1. Construction
  2. Retail and wholesale
  3. Education
  4. Transportation and storage
  5. Accommodation and food services
  6. Manufacturing
  7. Professional, scientific and technical services
  8. Administration

The department has set the local to foreign workforce ratio in retail and wholesale sector at 50:50, with the implementation of the NTA on the first three sectors set for the second quarter of this year. The ratio for the other affected sectors were not disclosed.

The briefing also included the introduction of a Foreign Workers Levy, which is a fee that is imposed on employers that employ foreign workers well beyond the ratio that has been set by the Labour Department.

During the session on Wednesday, the minister mentioned three sectors which are predominantly reliant on foreign workers —  construction, education as well as the retail and wholesale sector.

“In the construction sector, the workforce ratio is about 80 percent foreigners with the remaining 20 percent being locals,” said YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar.

“There are about 22,510 foreign workers in the construction sector and 11,569 foreign workers in the retail and wholesale sector that have been recorded by the Labour Department based on the Labour Census 2017.”

The ministry through the Labour Department has already begun briefing operators of the NTA in order for employers to make early preparations to ensure their foreign and local workforce falls within the required ratio.

“The ratio is still in review but once it has been implemented, we will conduct further discussions with the relevant stakeholders and hopefully it will help lessen the number of foreign workers in the country.”

Currently, based on the Labour Survey 2017 the ratio of locals and foreigners in the workforce is at three to one, with locals representing about 75 percent (139,396 persons) of the country’s overall 206,085 workforce. The remaining 25 per cent or 47,490 persons are foreigners.

The Home Affairs minister also touched on the prospect of introducing minimum wage in the country in response to a question by YB Iswandy Ahmad.

He said that the ministry is still reviewing the matter looking into its feasibility as it may impact a number of things including FDIs and they are also determining whether or not it will affect the cost of doing business in the country.