Between 10 and 15 per cent of Chinese coffee shops closed in 2017. Thousands of migrants, who went home for Chinese New Year, did not come back. The authorities have made their return harder and now small businesses are unable to meet customer demand.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Some 2,000 Chinese coffee shops and 400 Indian-Muslim and banana leaf restaurants ceased operations in 2017, says a joint committee representing the owners. The latter attribute the closures to the lack of manpower, including foreign workers.
The Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association (MSCP), Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) and Malaysian Indian-Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma), have sent a joint memorandum to the government urging it to look into their predicament immediately.
MSCP president Ho Su Mong said 10 to 15 per cent of its 20,000 members throughout the country closed shop in 2017.
He noted the situation could get worse as thousands of foreign workers who returned to their home countries for Chinese New Year New Year have not returned.
"This means we are looking at more businesses closing down as the procedure for rehiring has been made complicated and more stringent," Ho Su Mong said on Sunday.
Primas secretary-general T. Thanabalan said many banana leaf rice restaurants are expected to close down this year because they are forced to replace their foreign workers.
"The problem of getting approval for foreign workers has been unresolved for three years," he explained.
"The system of getting replacements has been made very stringent and there is no way small players can meet all the conditions required by the government."
"Hence, the cleanliness of restaurants has also been compromised (as a result of the worker shortage) and this resulted in more issues, such as summonses from local councils," he explained.
Mr Thanabalan said the joint memorandum to the government was sent in the hope that the prime minister and deputy prime minister would intervene to resolve the problem.
"We are in dire straits and the only way out is to cease operations. At the end of the day, traditional eateries may no longer exist in the country," he lamented.
Labour shortages threaten traditional ethnic restaurants. About 2,000 Chinese coffee shops and 400 Indo-Muslim and banana leaf restaurants have ceased their activity in 2017. Some 71,515 foreign workers are legally employed in the restaurant sector. Since January, the authorities have carried out 3,844 raids and detained 10,378 foreigners on immigration offences.
More than 3,300 undocumented workers were detained after Malaysia began cracking down the day after deadline for regularisation. For Cambodian lawmaker Mu Sochua, nothing can “be an excuse to further victimise the vulnerable”. Malaysia has two million documented foreign workers and another two million who are undocumented. Since the start of the year, more than 30,000 undocumented workers have been sent back to their home countries.
About half a million migrants from the South Asian country live in Malaysia, many undocumented and working illegally. Those who find honest work are an "economic blessing" for their families. Uzzal Roy and Mohoshin Islam are two such migrants who made it.