PETALING JAYA, Malaysia—The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) has appealed to the government to allow foreign laborers to enter the country "as soon as possible" to support growing production and demand.
The industry is facing a critical shortage of 25,000 factory workers since 2019 and requires labor as demand continues to increase, MARGMA president Dr. Supramaniam Shanmugam said in a Sept. 28 appeal.
"We have the production capacity, but not enough workers to utilize the production capacity to its optimum," Supramaniam said.
If not addressed, Supramaniam warned the shortage could lead to the industry "losing out on capacity building to fulfill global orders and demand."
As an urgent solution, the industry has offered to fulfill the terms and requirements for the hiring process, including absorbing the costs for necessary COVID-19 tests and quarantining.
"Operating rubber glove factories in a time like this is most challenging, and 2021-2022 will go down historically as an unprecedented operating period for most players," he said.
Some foreign workers are still stuck in their country and are not able to return to their jobs here in Malaysia, Supramaniam said.
"Yet others, for whom the levy has already been paid, are yet to arrive," he said.
MARGMA said it has been running local hiring programs since 2019 in collaboration with the with the Malaysian government but has had little success in meeting its target of employing 10,000 local workers.
Since 2013, the Malaysian rubber glove industry has maintained an employment level of 72,000 people despite the production and exports tracking a 10%-15% growth.
According to MARGMA, heavy investment in automation has so far supported the industry at times of labor shortage.
In 2009, for instance, it took 10 workers to produce a million gloves per month but it now takes only 1.7 workers to produce the same amount in a month, MARGMA said.
Likewise, production line yields has increased from 3000 pcs/hr to a current levels of 45,000 pcs/hr over the past 15 years.