THE majority of locals who returned to Johor when the border with Singapore was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, have gone back to the island republic.
Johor business groups say the locals decided to seek employment in Singapore again for various reasons, including the rising cost of living in Malaysia.
Johor Indian Muslim Entre-preneur Association (Perusim) secretary Hussein Ibrahim said only a small group of people remained in Johor.
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“After the border was closed, many small businesses, mostly home-based, popped up in Johor.
“Quite a number were operated by those who decided to return from Singapore to be with their families.
“However, now that the border has reopened, most have gone back to Singapore.
“In the end, earning higher salaries there is still a strong pull factor despite the other challenges they have to face across the border,” he said.
The association is now having a dire problem recruiting local workers in Johor.
“We cannot compete with the salaries offered in Singapore because of the currency exchange rate.
“At the same time, it is now difficult to hire foreign workers,” said Hussein.
Johor Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry secretary Datuk K. Krishnan said losing manpower to Singapore had been a major setback for industries.
“This is a big problem that has been going on for years due to our close proximity to Singapore.
“Many Johoreans are also returning to Singapore to cope with the rising cost of living.
“Getting better pay there is definitely one way to solve their financial issues,” he said.
Krishnan said Johor government should look at providing incentives to get more locals to stay.
“This includes providing better housing which will at least give them a good reason to remain in Johor despite earning lower salaries,” he said.
Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Low Kueck Shin, however, pointed out a silver lining.
“Johoreans earning good salaries in Singapore can spend their money here in the state which will help stimulate Johor’s economy.
“This is especially important as Johor slowly recovers from two years of border closure,” he said, adding that the trend among Johoreans was to start working in Singapore as soon as possible for them to earn enough to return to Johor for good.