| Azlan Othman |
A LEVY on recruiting foreign workers in five industrial sectors in Brunei’s private sector is expected to be introduced in January 2016.
Employers will have to pay the levy for each foreign worker they hire every two years. This is one of the initiatives introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs to control the rising number of foreign workers in the Sultanate.
In a dialogue – held between members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) and officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) – Awang Haji Rani bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yusof, the Acting Labour Commissioner, said that the levy will be imposed on wholesale and retail business, hotels and restaurants, ICT sector, transportation and support services.
To date, there are 90 unskilled, low skilled and semi-skilled posts (including those in the ICT sector) that have been identified to be affected by the levy continued the Acting Labour Commissioner.
He added that out of 141,852 employees in the country’s private sector (based on the 2013 Employee and Employer Census), 92,007 (64.9%) were foreign workers while 40,620 (28.6%) and 9,225 (6.5%) were Brunei citizens and permanent residents, respectively.
It was also found that 39 per cent of foreign workers in the private sector were employed in the construction sector.
There is an upward trend of hiring foreign workers because of the increasing activities in government housing and infrastructure projects as well as individual projects in the past few years, said Awang Haji Rani.
The dialogue also highlighted initiatives made by the MoHA to encourage locals to work in the private sector and to control the recruitment of foreign workers. Issues relating to immigration and new guidelines on Miscellaneous Licence (Amendment) Act Order 2015 were also discussed.
Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, the Minister of Home Affairs said that the dialogue gave background information on new policies to hire foreign workers and issues relating to the roles and responsibilities of the Immigration and National Registration Department.
A member of the Legislative Council, YB Awang Haji Zulkipli bin Haji Abdul Hamid said that the dialogue provided LegCo members with better explanations on the latest initiatives or policies introduced in the last 12 months.
Another member of the Legislative Council, YB Awang Haji Ramli bin Haji Lahit said that the local unemployment has been an issue frequently raised by village residents to LegCo members.
He added, “It is a good move to control the number of foreign workers because their numbers has risen significantly. I also hope that there will be ongoing programmes made by relevant authorities to help change the mindset of local jobseekers of working in the private sector.”
Meanwhile, the Acting Labour Commissioner said that the issuance of licences and work passes are audited by the Audit Department at the Prime Minister’s Office to ensure that the issuance is in accordance with rules and regulations.
If there are negative or unhealthy elements, the Labour Department will not hesitate to take action and forward such cases to the relevant authorities. Disciplinary actions have been taken against the staff in three such cases in the past, he said.
Talking of the Labour Control System (LCS), Awang Haji Rani explained that the LCS is introduced to facilitate online labour-related applications.
Officers will monitor the flow of applications to ensure that the process will not be slowed down.
The LCS is aimed to prevent any forgery of documents such as company’s licence and work pass recommendations.
The LCS is currently in the fifth of eight stages where it is currently starting its system development, installation and user acceptance test.
With 81 employment agencies currently licensed in the Sultanate, the Labour Department is planning to give ratings to these agencies to ensure a healthy competition.
On the inconsistent fees to hire domestic helpers, relevant agencies are currently in the process of provisioning price ceiling rules to control the service charges of local agencies.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has also been discussed with Indonesia for household workers, including the need to have licence employment agency, quality and skilful workers as well as training and no exorbitant rate from the supplier of such worker.