Malaysia wants to generate more skilled and dedicated local workers through vocational training to cut the country’s dependence on foreign labor, Deputy Human Resources Minister Mahfuz Omar said at an event in Kuala Terengganu on Tuesday.

The minister said reducing the dependence of foreign labor had long been a major objective of the Ministry of Human Resources, the Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia) reported.

According to statistics from the Malaysian government, the country had more than 2 million foreign workers and they represented about 19% of the labor force in 2008 and played key roles in manufacturing, plantations, plus construction, services and the domestic sector.

This was an over-dependence on foreign labor, so the government had been working over the past decade to bring down the size of its foreign workforce to 1.75 million, or 11% of the total labor force by 2018.

The proportion of foreign workers was expected to drop to a maximum of 10% in near future, Omar said. However, he did not say when this was likely to happen.

The Malaysian government aimed to boost the proportion of skilled local labor to 35% of the total workforce by 2020 from the current 23%, by providing more vocational training programs, he said.

As of June 30, 2017, there were 1.78 million migrant workers in Malaysia, according to the Home Ministry. They mainly came from Indonesia (728,870), Nepal (405,898),  Bangladesh (221,089), Myanmar (127,705) and India (114, 455). The remaining came from Pakistan (59,281), the Philippines (56,153), Vietnam (29,039) and China (15,399).