BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry (MEMI) is in talks with several government agencies to roll out its “Bruneianisation Directive” to non-oil and gas sectors this year, in order to reduce reliance on foreign workers and increase local employment.

MEMI Minister, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mat Suny Hj Md Hussein, said while foreign workers may be needed for the expertise and experience locals lack, there must be Bruneians trained to eventually fill those positions.

“An orderly succession plan is what is needed to manage the issue in the long-term, empowering locals to be the first choice for employers,” he said during a meeting of the Legislative Council on Tuesday.

The Bruneianisation Directive was introduced to the oil and gas sector in June 2018, requiring operators to present a clear action plan to increase workforce localisation by five to 10 percent each year, eventually reaching a 90 percent local workforce rate at all levels.

According to the 2017 Labour Force Survey, foreigners account for 25.4 percent of Brunei’s total workforce, equivalent to 47,490 people.

The minister said there are several other sectors where foreigners are overrepresented, such as construction and agriculture.

He added that MEMI wants to roll out the Bruneianisation Directive in “an orderly fashion”, according the needs of the respective industries.

“Hopefully, with the rise of locals in management positions, the private sector will do their part in welcoming more locals into their workforce.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs also announced last week it would be rolling out a new policy that would limit the number of foreign workers employed in eight sectors, including construction, retail, education and hospitality.

With the unemployment crisis looming large over this year’s Legislative Council meeting, YB Dato Dr Hj Mat Suny said the issue must be looked at holistically, and there other factors at play besides the large number of foreign workers in Brunei.

According to the Labour Force Survey, the number of foreign workers in the country has fallen from 52,161 in 2014 to 47,490 in 2017 — a decrease of 8.9 percent.

The minister said a number of strategies must be implemented to truly address unemployment, including a plan that can generate a competent and employable workforce; continuous economic development; as well as schemes that ensure locals are prioritized in the job market.

Brunei’s unemployment rate stood at 9.3 percent by the end of 2017, the highest rate in ASEAN.