Malaysian fast-food restaurants face foreign worker ban

fast food

Jennifer Pak, BBC

Inside a shopping mall built like an Egyptian pyramid in Malaysia’s Selangor state, Durga Dasadursarumagar cleans tables at the US burger chain restaurant Carl’s Jr.

As a Nepalese, he works four hours longer than his Malaysian colleagues and for less pay.

But that doesn’t bother him because even on a salary of 800 Malaysian ringgit ($245; £150) per month, Mr Durga makes five times more money than he would earn back home in Nepal.

“It’s a very easy job,” says the 23-year-old.

But once Mr Durga’s visa expires, he won’t be able to renew his contract as the Malaysian government has banned fast-food restaurants from hiring more foreigners.

That is because, according to the cabinet committee on foreign workers and illegal immigrants, many locals are keen to take up such jobs.


It’s part of Malaysia’s bid to reverse decades of dependence on cheap labour.

Despite government efforts in recent years to make it more difficult and expensive to hire foreigners, at least one in six workers in Malaysia is a low-skilled immigrant.

That has led to frustration among some Malaysians over the number of foreigners working in the country.

Foreigners make up nearly 20% of the workforce at Carl’s Jr in Malaysia, and account for 5% of the 12,000 staff who work for McDonald’s in the country.

Immigrants employed in the fast-food sector mainly perform jobs such as cleaning, while locals run the cash tills and cook.

But the operations director for Carl’s Jr Malaysia, Bob Ali, doesn’t agree with the latest move.

“It’s tough to find Malaysians who want to work here,” says Mr Ali.

“We will survive, but it will still affect our service where it will be a little bit slow and it’ll affect sales as well.”

A big, black sign that reads: “We are hiring!” has already been a permanent fixture at the entrance of the restaurant for more than a year.

But it rarely draws Malaysians in to inquire about a job. So when Mr Ali sees students in his restaurant, he serves them burgers and offers them a part-time job as a side order.