Indian Eateries in Malaysia Face Crisis Due to Shortage of Workers

Restaurant owners are suffering due to the tedious process required to fulfill government criteria.


A shortage of workers, including foreign employees, has forced as many as 2,000 Chinese coffee shops and 400 Indian-Muslim and banana leaf restaurants to shut shop in Malaysia in 2017, according to a joint committee representing the owners.

Urging the government to immediately look into their issues, 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 authorities, the Star Online reported.

“The problem of getting approval for foreign workers has been unresolved for three years. 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,” T. Thanabalan, Primas secretary-general, said.

Thanabalan added that several banana leaf rice restaurants are expected to cease operations this year because they are due to substitute their foreign work force. Banana leaf restaurants, which are immensely popular in the country, serve the entire south Indian meal on a plantain leaf.

Rehiring is a huge challenge for the owners since they need to go through a tedious process in order to fulfill the criteria laid down by government departments or agencies. “Hence, the cleanliness of restaurants has also been compromised (as a result of the worker shortage) and this resulted in more issues, such as summons from local councils,” Thanabalan added.

Presma president Ayub Khan said that his association foresees more Indian-Muslim eateries shutting down this year. The joint memorandum was sent to the government in the hope that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Bin Hamid would take steps to resolve the problems that the operators are facing.

Malaysia is known for its Mamak shops, which are small restaurants that offer pocket-friendly Malay and Indian food.

According to Thanabalan, if the situation persists, traditional eateries may even vanish from the country. “We are in dire straits and the only way out is to cease operations,” he added.

MSCP president Ho Su Mong said that 10 to 15 per cent of its 20,000 members across the country shut down in 2017. The situation could become worse as thousands of foreign workers who had gone to their home countries during the Chinese New Year festive break had not come back. “This means we are looking at more businesses closing down as the procedure for rehiring has been made complicated and more stringent,” Su Mong added.

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