Lifting of foreign workers ban: Early Deepavali gift for textile and barbershop operators

KUALA LUMPUR: The lifting of the foreign workers ban for three subsectors namely the textile, barbershop and goldsmith sectors is a huge relief for business operators.

An Indian textile shop operator, K. Subramanian likened the announcement to an early Deepavali gift.

He said many business operators who relied on foreign workers from India prior to the Covid-19 pandemic were left high and dry after a blanket ban on hiring foreigners was imposed.

"But with the recent announcement, we can all finally breath a sigh of relief and rejoice," he said, adding that textile businesses were among the worst hit by ban since 2019.

The operator of Saradha Textile in Masjid India said at present they have about 15 staff, most of them locals.

However for his nature of business, namely in silks and sarees, he also needs to hire workers who are knowledgeable with all the many varieties of silks and textiles they sell at the shop.

"We have a variety of silks and materials which are easily identifiable by workers from India, instead of locals.

"I am not saying that locals don't know the difference but they tend to take a longer time to learn and grasp the knowledge compared to those who wear sarees on a daily basis," he said.

He added that from his experience, locals were not very keen on learning about the textile trade, especially sarees and silk materials.

Subramanian also hoped that the renewal process for the existing workers would be made simpler, without having to send them back to India.

"In the textile industry it is hard to get a really good and dedicated worker who knows the nitty gritty of the trade. So when we get a worker who is good, we value them," he said.

Yesterday, the Human Resources Ministry announced the reopening of foreign worker recruitment in the barbershop, textile, and goldsmith sectors, with an initial quota of 7,500 workers.

This announcement came as a huge surprise to over 15,000 business operators, many who were on the verge of winding up and were making just enough to stay afloat.

"Finally, we can look forward to better days and reconsider expanding our business, now that the ban has been somewhat lifted," said another business operator, A. Candiran who used to have a chain of barber shops but now only has two shops, after the 2019 ban.

Speaking to The New Straits Times, he said business was badly hit following the ban and employing local barbers was too expensive for him.

"I didn't have a choice, once my workers' permits ended, I had to send them back and this resulted in the downsizing of shops," he said.

Candiran said the latest announcement gives people like him a renewed hope to expand again.

Both of the business operators also conveyed their heartfelt gratitude to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Human Resources Minister V.Sivakumar and former minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan for championing the issue for nearly three years now.

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