Barber, goldsmith and textile biz can no longer recruit foreign workers

IT is a case of double whammy for three economic subsectors, namely the barber, goldsmith and textile businesses.

Instead of getting a green light for the freeze on foreign worker recruitment to be lifted following their earlier appeal, they were told that effective yesterday (March 15), they will no longer be allowed to hire foreigners upon the expiry of their existing foreign workforce’s work permits.

Indeed, the new ruling has left business owners with the bleak prospect of ceasing operations or permanent closure due to worker shortage.

“Our businesses will be forced to send home existing employees and we have to close down our shops,” Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nivas Ragavan told The Star.

This comes following the sighting of an Immigration Department circular by the mainstream daily that the last date to extend the temporary work passes was March 15 (yesterday) although the passes have not reached their maximum validity period of 13 years.

Workers whose permits ended before March 15 can only renew their permits for a year, after which they have to be repatriated.

Nivas hoped the government would allow the subsectors to take part in the recalibration programme of undocumented migrant workers given that locals are not interested in those jobs or lacked the special skills.

“Goldsmithing, for example, is a special skill. Skilled workers are mainly from India,” he explained.

Pic credit: Dustin Senger

Textile Association secretary-general Datin Gayathry Maheswari said at least 20% of textile shops nationwide have already ceased operations due to manpower issues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 1Q 2020.

“The government should retract this ruling. It is unfair of the government to not look into this matter affecting us,” she remarked.

“Why is it when other sectors (i.e., plantation and glove manufacturing) ask for foreign labour, they are given but not us?”

Malaysian Indian Hairdresser Owners Association (MINDAS) president T. Suthandiram also reckoned that it would be tough for the Indian barbershop industry to survive if they were not allowed foreign workers.

The freeze could eventually spell the end of the traditional Indian barbershop in Malaysia, according to him.

“Since 2009, we have had the same workers with some going home for holidays and not returning,” he revealed.

“Barbershops are also a Malaysian Indian heritage with some having been in operation for more than 100 years. There are 718 shops under the MINDAS umbrella and most may now have to close shop. Locals are not interested in becoming barbers.” – March 16, 2023

Main pic credit: The Star

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