Employers still prefer to hire foreign workers
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
EMPLOYERS still prefer to hire foreign workers as they are perceived to be more reliable and committed than many Bruneians, who would leave as soon as they find a government job.
Employers interviewed by The Brunei Times said there are locals willing to take up jobs in the private sector, but do not usually stay for long. They said this contributed to a high turnover rate for the company.
The Labour Department last year announced a policy to reduce unused foreign labour quota, and that local businesses were required to hire more local workers than foreign staff under the policy.
However, Lim, a human resource and operations manager for a popular food and beverage (F&B) chain in the country, said there was a “lower risk” in hiring foreign workers who are more consistent in turning up for work.
She said there are plenty of local school-leavers who take up part-time jobs with the companies, but who usually leave “after one to three months”.
“Some say they will stay on for three months, but will leave earlier than expected,” she said.
However, Lim said she finds there is generally still not as good a response by locals when it comes to jobs in the F&B industry, as they work in shifts and often require employees to work on public holidays. “It's definitely not a popular industry for locals to work in. It is not easy working in F&B with rules and regulations and the trainings required.
“We often encourage locals to take up full-time work with us, but they have higher expectations and do not want to engage in F&B as a long-term career,” she said.
Lim said her company was “still able to cope with labour requirements” with “careful manpower planning”, but said she often needed “extra hands” to make up for when current employees take time off or leave from work.
Meanwhile, a local manager of a hotel in Brunei who declined to be named, said they were trying to hire more locals now, especially by working with the Local Employment and Workforce Development Agency (APTK), but that most local employees' lack of commitment to the jobs they take up at the hotel made it difficult.
“At job fairs, we receive a lot of CVs but when we call 30 of them to come in for a job interview, 25 will say they are able to come. We would be lucky if five of them turn up in the end,” she said.
The hotel manager said they had often faced cases of Bruneians not turning up to work last-minute without notice, especially from younger ones who were not as interested or committed, and were only taking up the job to pass time.
However, she acknowledged that local employees aged over 30 are more reliable, as they understood the significance of job commitment and they often needed to support families.
“It does not mean we do not want to hire locals – it would be brilliant if we could hire locals, as we would not need to spend money on labour quota fees or agency fees to hire them, but we are being let down (by locals).
“It's a little bit sad,” she said.
The manager also called foreign workers “more reliable”, even during busy periods.
“Having to pay for things like accommodation, insurance and flights make up quite a big chunk for employers in order to hire foreigners, but it is worth it if they are good workers who are able to support the company well,” she said.
Melanie, marketing manager for Excapade Sushi, also said the company was coordinating with APTK to hire more locals at all branches, putting out job ads in newspapers and participating in job fairs as a way to keep in line with labour policies. “But our turnover (rate) is still very fast – our hiring is non-stop as people come and go, and it has been that way since the start of the business,” she explained.
Melanie said it was “not easy” to hire local full-timers, as much as they would like to. “It's them who don't want to stay on, and there are so many reasons for it,” she said.
According to the manager, one popular reason was that locals they hired were often young peo-ple who leave as soon as they want to pursue tertiary education. “Another major reason was that local employees could not cope with the workload during busy business hours, as is often the case at the restaurant's branches,” she said.
Meanwhile, some Bruneians said job security, high wages and benefits were the biggest factors in their preference for government jobs.
Last Saturday, His Majesty Sul-tan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, said Bruneians need to shed their preference for government jobs. In his 69th birthday titah, the Sultan said “a picky attitude” in seeking employment can hinder the progress of a nation.
Some of the youths interviewed said they prefer to work in the private sector, particularly the oil and gas industry, which promises career growth.
Nazmi Supri, a final year Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB) student majoring in Business Marketing Information System, believes that other than government jobs, pri-vate sector jobs in the oil and gas industry have always been a popular choice because of the high wages. “Personally, I would like to work in any sector becase opportunies are everywhere. However, I know a lot of Bruneians who prefer to work in he civil service unless it’s for an oil and gas industry,” he added.
Sharifah al-Idrus, a former intern at Civil Service Institute, said she prefers to work in the government due to its perks. “There are many benefits such as ease in applying loans and leave, in addition to lucrative pensions.
A 24-year-old UNISSA graduate, Yatie Sani, said many locals prefer government jobs because it is har-der to find a stable and high-pay-ing career in the private sector, apart from oil and gas industry jobs. “It’s really hard to find jobs in the private sector as most of them require experience. However, if I take a lower paying job, for exam-ple in the food industry, I would get highly criticised by people around me.
The Brunei Times