KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Hiring those formerly incarcerated and are out on parole could be a way for Malaysia's employers to cope with the shortage in manpower, the Malaysian Employers' Federation (MEF) has reportedly said.
According to local daily The Star, MEF president Datuk Syed Hussain Syed Husman said hiring parolees would help them rehabilitate back into society and prevent them from any possible relapse into criminal activities.
"Employers should not worry too much as parole is only given to minor offenders and those who deserve a second chance," he was quoted as saying.
Syed Hussain said not all vacancies could be filled by parolees as it would depend on their existing skills and how quickly they could pick up the required skills, adding: "Those employed should also not be deemed as temporary replacements for migrant workers but rather an additional source of labour," he was quoted saying.
Citing the Human Resource Development Corporation (HRD Corp) Second Chances and Opportunities for People to Excel programme which gives skills training and job opportunities to former prisoners, he said: "This will reduce the number of repeat offenders. We can reduce the prison population and our dependence on foreign workers."
He said more than 1,000 former prisoners under phase one of the HRD Corp programme were given job offers in industries such as construction, transportation, farming, plantations and services.
The Star also reported Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan saying that prisoners on parole could be hired on a case-by-case basis after background checks are carried out, and that they would be better suited to start in restaurant kitchens and could be integrated over time into the front end and deal with customers.
He said he had met with Sungai Buloh prison officials to discuss how such prisoners could be integrated into restaurants.
The Star said at least two restaurants in Penang had hired prisoners on parole, while other restaurants in the Klang Valley are also prepared to employ them.
According to The Star, Malaysia's oldest nasi kandar operator Hameediyah Restaurant started hiring parolees two years ago, and to date 50 such prisoners work with the restaurant. Currently, there are six such parolees working there.
The restaurant's director Muhammad Riyaaz Syed Ibrahim was quoted saying: "They were not problematic at all. I feel relieved to have become part of the parole programme of our prisons because they help with our manpower shortage."
He also said that the parolees take their jobs seriously and really want to do well and be given a second chance. The Star said the parolees are paid the minimum wage of RM1,500 and put in the same eight hours of work, and are also given lodgings in hostels near the restaurant.
The Star also reported banana leaf restaurant Ananda Bahwan owner Datuk V. Harikrishnan as saying that the parolees working at his outlets are from various backgrounds and races, and that all are committed to their job and want to change their lives. Over 100 parolees had worked at the restaurant's outlets, with 10 of them now working in the outlets in Penang.
Last week, the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) said local hoteliers are mulling hiring those formerly incarcerated to address worker shortage.
Besides former prisoners, hotels are also considering hiring those on parole, Orang Asli, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cardholders to fill vacancies, especially in restaurant and housekeeping sections.
*Editor's note: An earlier edition of this story erroneously named the programme as being under the Human Resources Development Fund, and has since been corrected.