There has been much debate on the state of foreign workers in the country when Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced last year the government's plan to bring in 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh.

Many were quick to say the workers would lead to social problems while others were concerned that this could affect job opportunities for locals.

Ahmad Zahid today however had ordered to freeze the intake of all foreign workers including Bangladesh workers.

READ: Freeze intake of foreign workers, including Bangladeshis - Ahmad Zahid

But, like it or not, foreign workers in the country play crucial parts in key sectors in Malaysia.

Here are the five facts on foreign workers in Malaysia -- provided by the Economic Planning Unit of The Prime Minister’s Department.

1. Just how many foreign workers in Malaysia between 2000-2014?

Malaysia had the highest number of foreign workers in 2013 with 2.25 million of them in the country. The lowest was in 2000 when an approximately 800,000 foreign workers were employed here.

In 2000, domestic helpers (maid) contributed to about 22 per cent to the total foreign workforce in Malaysia.

In 2014, the number declined to 7.5 per cent, the smallest portion of the five sectors measured.

2. Were they all Bangladeshis?

In 2014, there were more than 490,000 Nepalese workers in Malaysia. These group of workers fell second to Indonesian employees (817k) and Bangladeshis (296k).

3. Were there any other foreign workers apart from Indonesians, Nepalese and Bangladeshis?

Malaysia also played host to workers from the Philippines, India, Myanmar and Pakistan.

Interestingly, the number of foreign workers from Pakistan made an 11-fold increase between 2004 and 2005, where the figure jumped from 1,156 to 13,297.

Nepalese workers also made a huge leap from 666 in the year 2000 to 48,000 in 2001.

4. What were they doing?

Contrary to popular opinion, these foreign workers did not all work in the construction sector.

In 2014, there were 747,000 foreign workers in the manufacturing sector, 488,000 in agriculture and only one fifth or 411,000 in construction.

5. What is the future trend?

The number of foreign workers from Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Laos have also increased consistently from, around 2,300 in the year 2000 to around 92,000 in 2014.

Bonus fact!

6. What not to call them?

‘Bangla’ and ‘Indon’ are deragotary terms.

The fear of foreign workers (or foreigners) is known as ‘xenophobic’.

'Expatriates' are also foreign workers.

The expats, (or professionals from affluent countries) earn higher wages than your average foreign 'labours'.