Barber, goldsmith and textile shops can no longer hire foreign workers

Bleak future: Owners of barbershops will likely find it hard to survive as most of their employees are foreign workers. — GLENN GUAN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Three subsectors that have been appealing for the freeze on foreign worker recruitment to be lifted have instead been hit with worse news.

They will no longer be allowed to hire foreigners and even the existing permits of their foreign workers will not be renewed, effective yesterday.

The three subsectors – textile, goldsmith and barber shops – are now facing closure of many outlets due to what they call an “unfair” ruling.

The three subsectors had not been allowed to recruit fresh foreign workers since 2009 but had been hopeful the freeze would be lifted.

The new ruling, however, has left them with the prospect of permanent closure due to worker shortage.

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

An Immigration Department circular sighted by The Star states that the last date to extend the temporary work passes was March 15, although the passes have not reached their maximum validity period of 13 years.

Workers whose permits ended before March 15 can only be renewed 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.

He said locals were not interested in the jobs or lacked the special skills.

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

Textile Association secretary-general Datin Gayathry Maheswari said at least 20% of textile shops nationwide have already ceased operations due to manpower issues.

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

“Why is it when other sectors ask for foreign labour, they are given, but not us?” she said, suggesting the businesses be allowed to take part in the recalibration programme.

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

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

The freeze, he said, could also spell the end of the traditional Indian barbershop in Malaysia.

“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,” he said.

Malaysian Indian Goldsmith and Jewellers Association president Datuk Abdul Rasul Abdul Razak said the industry needed more foreign manpower to cope with market demands.

“There are many practices in Indian culture where foreign expertise is needed.

“These includes gold for weddings, celebrating newborns and important occasions,” he said.

He said they had also tried engaging locals but most quit, while some left to open their own outlets.

“Things are bad for our industry. We are not included in the recalibration programme or renewal of work permits. We hope the Prime Minister can help resolve this,” he said.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president N. Gobalakrishnan was reported saying that about 10,000 Indian businesses from these sectors could be forced to close as permits were being terminated in stages.

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