7,500 foreign workers won’t cut it

Busy at work: Segar cutting a customer’s hair at his shop in George Town.

GEORGE TOWN: More foreign workers are coming into the country, but that may not be able save the many traditional barbershops from closing down.

The initial quota of 7,500 foreign workers to be shared by barbers, textile stores and goldsmiths is just not enough, says the Penang Maruthuvar Sangam (Penang Barbers Association).

Its secretary Segar Veeraperumal said business has picked up since the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, and they needed quite a number of workers.

He said they had been waiting patiently for foreign workers but the 7,500 would not ease the problem as locals were not willing to do the work.

Segar has four local workers in his shop in George Town, who are paid RM100 each a day with a meal allowance of RM10.

“Local workers can earn up to RM150 a day especially on weekends, but they do not have the discipline to handle the job.

“They will not turn up on time or will disappear on weekends when there are bigger crowds,” said the 61-year-old who has two other barbershops, one in Bayan Lepas and another on the mainland.

“These shops are manned by foreign workers,” he said.

There are now 280 barbershops in Penang compared with 350 before the pandemic.

Segar said at least half of these barbershops faced the same issues because they had no choice but to hire locals, but end up facing problems.

Karthigesu Ponnandi, 52, who has two shops in Chai Leng Park and Seberang Jaya, said he has seven workers – four locals and three foreigners.

“The foreign workers will arrive by 8.30am. My local workers only arrive at 9.30am even though they live nearby. They leave by 6pm while the foreign workers work until 8.30pm.

“I’m willing to pay extra allowances during weekends, but in most cases only two of the local workers will turn up on weekends.”

Karthigesu said he had requested six foreign workers through the association.

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