Chin Tong: Malaysia’s reliance on foreign labor hinders semiconductor automation.

In an opinion piece published by the East Asia Forum, Liew Chin Tong, Deputy Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry in Malaysia, stated that many Malaysian companies, especially small and medium enterprises, continue to rely on low-skilled foreign workers and are resistant to adopting automation. He acknowledged that some are sceptical about Malaysia’s ability to manufacture advanced automated machines or precision tools comparable to those in Germany or Japan. However, he highlighted that the global semiconductor industry in Malaysia has produced successful local companies specializing in automation solutions. Liew also pointed out that salary disparities are driving skilled workers, particularly engineers and technicians, to seek employment in Singapore where compensation is higher. He attributed this to a systemic challenge of low pay in Malaysia, which hinders the creation of skilled jobs. Liew emphasized the need for increased investment in STEM education and technical training to build a stronger talent pool. He also called for improved compensation for skilled workers and enhanced policy leadership in the semiconductor industry.