‘Only local cooks allowed in restaurants’: Malaysian government pushes for less reliance on foreign labour in the F&B industry

Restaurant operators are given until the end of the year to ensure that all their cooks are locals.
The Straits Times

Foreigners seeking employment in Malaysia will have one less option to choose as the Human Resource Ministry recently demanded that all restaurants in the country recruit only locals from July 1 onward.

Minister M. Kulasegaran told Bernama reporters on Thursday (June 21) that operators have been given a deadline by the end of the year to make sure that only Malaysian cooks work in their eateries.

Kulasegaran added that a newly introduced regulation allows only locals as cooks in all restaurants effective January 1, 2019.

“So we want locals to be employed as cooks. There will be no compromise…we are giving you notice to do it by December 31. If you don’t do it we can’t help it,” he said.

Kulasegaran had an earlier meeting with the Indian Restaurant Operators Association (Prisma) in Petaling Jaya.

He said the ministry would have more meetings with Prisma and the Indian Muslim Restaurant Operators Association (Presma) in the near future to discuss the implementation of local cooks in restaurants.

The bold initiative, according to Kulasegaran, would help to reduce dependence on foreign labour and maintain the quality of local fare.

He also said the ministry had taken a leaf from the Penang state government’s book by imposing the ban nationwide.

Since 2014, the Penang government had prohibited foreigners from working as hawker stall cooks as part of a movement to protect national food heritage.

Prisma president P. Muthusamy said the decision was “quite shocking” and would have major implications to operators.

He cited the years-long manpower crunch as the most prominent issue and expressed hope that the ministry would hold further discussions with food shop operators nationwide before moving on to execution.

“In the past few years, we have been facing problems of manpower. In fact more than 500 restaurants had closed during the period due to the shortage of workers,” said Muthusamy.

Presma president Ayub Khan noted that hiring restaurant employees would become a progressively serious problem as locals would baulk at the idea of working in restaurants.

He said: “We advertised, offering a salary of up to RM2,500 ($625), but no one came. It is not easy to find local workers for restaurants.”