PETALING JAYA • Malaysia wants all restaurants in the country to recruit only locals as cooks from next year in order to reduce dependence on foreign labour, said Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran.
The local restaurant scene is dominated by foreign workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India who work as cooks, waiters and cleaners, as Malaysians tend to shun the industry.
He said the regulation allows only Malaysians as cooks in all restaurants effective from Jan 1 next year. "So we want locals to be employed as cooks. There will be no compromise... we are giving you notice to do it by Dec 31.
"If you don't do it, we can't help it," he told Bernama News Channel yesterday.
Earlier, Mr Kulasegaran held a meeting with the Indian Restaurant Operators Association (Prisma) in Petaling Jaya.
He said the ministry would be holding more meetings with Prisma as well as the Indian Muslim Restaurant Operators Association (Presma) soon on the implementation of the move for local cooks in restaurants.
He said the move would reduce dependence of local restaurants on foreign labour and ensure the quality of local food.
He added that the ministry would follow in the footsteps of the Penang state government - which in 2014 prohibited foreigners from working as cooks in hawker stalls around the island in an effort to protect the national food heritage.
Prisma president P. Muthusamy said the decision was quite shocking and would have major implications for operators.
He said the industry has been facing problems of manpower in the past few years, with more than 500 restaurants closed during the period owing to the shortage of workers.
He hopes the ministry will hold further discussions with food shop operators nationwide before implementing the decision.
Malaysia is trying to reduce its reliance on foreign labour, which has been blamed for stagnant wages for the lower income.
Hiring local staff would mean higher wage costs for restaurants and will result in Malaysians paying more for their food.