20 years ago, I did some renovation in my exisiting house. We added a wing to the building, so that my parents could move down from penang to stay with me..
The contractor was a Chinese called Ken… His workers then were all old Chinese men with one or 2 Indonesia workers. The old CHinese men were called “Sam Hong” experts, meaning that they could build concrete buildings, able to do wood work for renovation and able to do water work, too.
The work was well done, and I had no problems with the added part of the buildings..
The about 6 years ago, I did a minor renovation again. This time, Ken’s workers were all Indonesians. My clinic also underwent certain renovations and again his workers are all Indons.
I did ask him what happened to the old Chinese SiFus.. He answered that all the SIfus has either retired or switched to other jobs, because as SiFu they commanded quite high pay and contractors being business people, they naturaly choose not to call these SiFu but rather use those Indons that were trained by the SIFUs over the years.
My friends in the construction fields are telling me the same thing. The old Chinese Sam HOng SiFU is now as rare as 6-carat diamonds..
Most of those who work in the construction of roads, buildings, residential houses etc are all foreign workers.. Without these skilled and semi skilled foreign workers, the skills being imparted by the disapperaing SamHomg SIFUs, the whole construction industry is going to grind to a halt.
Recently, there were calls to replace all these foreign workers with local workers, since many of the local people are going to be out of job.
Well, it is a correct move and no one could fault this call to reduce the local unemployment rate. With the service sectors, like restaurants and retail shops , this can probably be done quite easily. In the plantation sectors, this would be a problems, but if many of those who come from rural areas are out of jobs, i suspect they would not mind going back to the plantations to work. SO it is not a big deal either, if the recession is bad enough, these people will have no choice but to go back to where they come from.
But for the construction industry, the change cannot be done overnight. So much of local expertise have been lost that it would be a disaster if all the building projects are to be manned by locals.
We have only ourselves to be blamed. When we are having sunshine, we neve thought of keeping umbrellas for the raining days.. It is exactly the case with the construction industry. While we were having impressive growth, no incentives are given to train local people to be Sam HOng Si FU, and when the storms come, we have no choice but still rely on the Indons and the Banglas.
Another aspect which was told by the contractors is that Indons are much much more hardworking than the locals. If you ask them to be at some place at 8am, you can be assured that they would be there at 7.50am. BUt the locals? some will come at 8.30am and some will come at 9…and they will be the first to go off…
Many of our policy makers do not see far enough. During periods of sunshine, they never think of the rain. Perhaps , some of them see only the money aspect of any policy being implemented…
The whole system is now sick to the core… One year after 308, the system is not much better, if anything , it is getting sicker now… And sadly, we do not see any real cure for all the ills that we are facing….