PETALING JAYA: An association representing Indian barbers has welcomed Putrajaya’s move to lift a freeze imposed on the intake of foreign workers for the sector, saying it has become too difficult to find local talent.
Malaysian Indian Hairdressing Saloon Owners Association assistant secretary M Meenaq Kumar said although there were local barber academies, their graduates are trained to become entrepreneurs.
This is why most academy graduates are more inclined to start their own businesses rather than work at a barber shop.
“With less than RM20,000 anyone can open a barber shop,” he told FMT.
Meenaq said barbers earn a basic wage of RM1,500 a month, excluding overtime.
Locals are also not inclined to work in barber shops because of the long hours and the need to work on weekends and public holidays, he said.
Meenaq, whose association represents over 1,000 barbers, said the talent situation was more complicated for Indian barber shops.
“We need Indian workers because of the nature of our business which requires us to engage in various cultural practices, including (ceremonies for newborns) and funerals.
“We typically provide head-shaving services,” he said.
He was commenting on the government’s partial lifting of a freeze on the intake of foreign workers for the textile, goldsmith and barber shop sectors. Under the move, 7,500 foreign workers will be available for employment in the three sectors.
Prior to the freeze imposed on certain sectors in 2009, Meenaq said shops with three barbers could serve up to 60 customers a day. However, since then, many have only been able to service 20 customers a day.
Meanwhile, economist Barjoyai Bardai said the failure of employers in the sector to offer more competitive salaries was why local talents shied away from working in barber shops.
“There must be a higher wage. The wage should be above the poverty line, which is currently sitting at RM2,208.
“I think bringing in migrants has become a habit for minor businesses because when they face difficulties in getting local workers, the easy answer is to just import (labour),” he said.
Barjoyai said businesses could increase prices to pay higher wages.
An increase in prices should not have too much of an impact on consumers as most people cut their hair once every six weeks, he added.