KUCHING: The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) concurs with the recent statement from Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) that despite good wages being offered, locals still shun the opportunity to be employed in the palm oil industry in Malaysia. Hence, the palm oil industry has no options but resort to hiring foreign workers who are more willing to work in the industry which locals consider 4-Ds (dirty, difficult, dangerous, demeaning).
Majority of Malaysians employed in the palm oil industry, comprising some 20%, are in the management , staff levels while the foreign workers, making up 80% are in field operations category. As highlighted in the MPOA report, even with the current good price of CPO, farmers cannot benefit as there is an acute shortage of workers in the industry, caused mainly by the current Covid-19 pandemic which had prevented foreign workers from coming in since MCO in March 2020.
SOPPOA agrees that the acute workers shortage situation in Sarawak is similar to those in peninsula Malaysia; locals are choosy when it comes to the 4Ds plantation work, rather to be unemployed and expect subsidies. Despite putting up advertisements and other job offers in many newspapers, social media, radio broadcasting etc, the number of locals applying for jobs in plantation companies are still very low. The main reasons why foreign workers chose to work in the plantation industry is because they are willing to work hard and in tough conditions in order to feed themselves and their families in their home countries. They are desperate for work as hungry bellies ultimately push them to seek work that will pay well and which guarantee job in the long term as well, some foreign workers had been working here for quite a long time in the industry. It is also a fact that Malaysian youths today are too complacent and cannot endure the hardship environment of the plantations, even with high pay offers. Some of them just do not possess the stamina nor mentality to undertake hardship under the estate field conditions as majority of them are not desperate enough nor hungry enough. It is timely that Malaysian youths reconsider the opportunities in plantations sectors because in the digital era, jobs will become less available for those without the necessary IT skills and automation will replace the jobs of thousands in other sectors; estate work will always be available as many plantation tasks are still not easily replaced by robots or machineries. The palm oil sector has proven to be sustainable and ‘life saver’ even in the challenges of global pandemic and economical recession to the business communities and government alike.