JB enterprises feeling the strain

JOHOR BARU: He has two car workshops, three workers and at least seven vacancies for employees.

“I need at least 10 workers to run both workshops at full capacity, but it has been extremely difficult to get any locals to work here,” said owner Afiq Azri Mohd Abdul Salam Subrayar.

“I have even tried to raise the salary by almost half, but that did not work either,” he lamented in an interview.

Afiq Azri, 29, has been running the workshops for five years. Based on his experience and observations of other businesses, he found that it has been getting tougher to retain Malaysian workers in Johor Baru.

“It is common for them to work with us for a couple of months before leaving for Singapore.

“Some would spend a few months here to get some experience and pick up skills before looking for jobs across the Causeway.

“There are also those coming here from other states to get a job in Singapore. They would work in Johor Baru while waiting for opportunities in the island republic,” he said.

Afiq Azri’s predicament is shared by many other local business owners here who found that the rising cost of living, coupled with the weakening of the ringgit, have prompted more Malaysians to seek employment in Singapore.

According to these business operators, the hiring and retaining of Malaysian workers has been an uphill battle and the situation seems to have worsened since the end of last year.

Phua Kai Hoo, 37, who runs five restaurants, said he has been unable to employ any Malaysian below the age of 50.

“I can hire foreigners to work as waiters or janitors, but the cooks must be Malaysians as I need people who are skilled at cooking local Chinese food.”

He said he would need 50 people to run the kitchens.

“And I only have 30 people now to handle work in the kitchen, such as cooking and preparing the ingredients.”

Overall, he has about 100 workers, out of whom only 30 are locals (based in the kitchen). The rest include waiters or cleaners.

“My workers are in their 50s and 60s, as I could not get any young people to work here. Even if I am able to hire them, they will leave once they get better offers in Singapore,” he said.

He added that this is a problem that has been going on for years, but it has magnified of late.

Malaysians looking to earn a living have a different story to tell.

Kelvin Tabed, 32, said he needed to get a better paying job in Singapore so that he could help his family in Sabah.

“Given the choice, I would not want to leave my hometown, but it is not easy for me to get jobs with a good salary there.

“I need a stable income as I have elderly parents and younger siblings who are dependent on me,” he said.

Kevin, who came to Johor about two years ago, has since been working in a restaurant.

“Everything is more costly now. The medicines for my parents are getting expensive. That is why I am looking for opportunities in Singapore,” he said.

Another Malaysian, who only wanted to be known as Selvam, said he opted to work in Singapore so that he could provide for his family, including his two school-going children.

“Towards the end of last year, I decided to get a job in Singapore as I feel that my salary here is not enough to cover my family expenses,” said Selvam, who eventually found work there as a technician about three months ago.

“It was not an easy decision to make. I have to be away from my family, who is living in Segamat,” he said.

Selvam, 39, rents a room in Johor Baru and only goes back to Segamat once a week.

For the rest of the week, he hops on his motorcycle to get to his workplace in Singapore.

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workers , businesses , cost of living , Singapore


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