Hard to find local workers


Indian Muslim restaurant operators in Johor have increased the minimum wage for workers. — Filepic

BUSINESSES and companies in Johor are having problems hiring locals despite offering to pay the RM1,500 minimum wage imposed by the government on May 1 this year.

Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Low Kueck Shin said most were seeking employment in Singapore.

He said the reopening of the border between Malaysia and Singapore on April 1 had facilitated movements between both countries.

“The stronger Singapore dollar against the ringgit is the main factor why locals are attracted to work in the republic,’’ Low said.

The exchange rate of RM3.20 to the Singapore dollar on May 27, he added, was up from RM3.19 on May 23 and RM3.15 on May 19, 2022.

He said manufacturers in Johor were having problems not only hiring locals but also retaining workers, as they were getting better offers in Singapore.

Low said a factory production worker in Singapore could command a monthly income of S$2,500 (RM8,000) plus allowances, based on the exchange rate on May 27.

He said waking up early, commuting to the republic and going through traffic congestion on the Johor Causeway daily was not a major issue for locals working in Singapore.

“At the end of the day, how much money you bring home is more important,” he added.

Low said thousands of Malaysians, including Johoreans living in Johor and working in Singapore, also made a positive impact as they help to boost the local economy.

Separately, he said the way forward for the manufacturing sector in Johor was to automate their operations and reduce dependence on foreign workers.

Low hoped that the Federal and Johor governments could offer incentives and rebates to encourage more manufacturers to invest money in technology.

“Embracing technology is the best option to reduce reliance on foreign workers.

“It is not an overnight process and the governments at federal and state levels must provide assistance,” he said.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association (Perusim) secretary Hussein Ibrahim said Indian Muslim restaurant operators in the state had increased the minimum wage for workers last year.

He said the minimum salary was increased from RM1,200 to RM1,500 in August 2021, and then to between RM1,800 and RM2,000 this year.

“We have to increase the salary to stop our South Indian workers from going back to India,’’ said Hussein.

He said many workers wanted to go back to their hometown with no intention of returning to Malaysia after the country’s international border was reopened.

He added that about 30 Indian Muslim restaurants in Johor Baru had closed since the implementation of the first movement control order on March 18, 2020.

“More of the eateries will close if more workers go back to India,’’ said Hussein.

He highlighted that while the increase in salary was able to stop most South Indian workers from resigning, it failed to attract locals.

“It is considered good pay for locals who did not do well academically, with four to five meals provided daily,” he said.

Hussein said Perusim needed between 3,000 and 5,000 workers at the association’s restaurants and hoped that the government could consider bringing in South Indians to work at the eateries.

“South Indians are the best choice as they speak Tamil and will not leave their job once hired,” he added.

He said locals now preferred to work at Indian Muslim restaurants in Singapore as they could earn S$1,500 (RM4,800) monthly.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, some 300,000 Malaysians were believed to commute daily from Johor to Singapore for work.

Another 400,000 were said to work and live across the Causeway.

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