He crosses the border daily to work in Singapore, a hawker at Johor Bharu at night – tale of a Malaysian working in Singapore

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China Press

China Press

(Johor Bharu 29 May) He works in Singapore during the day. After returning home in Johor Bharu, he sells apam balik (“turnover pancakes”) at night, earning to support the entire family. He spends 18 hours a day on crossing the border, traffic jam and work without knowing what is exhaustion.

Many Malaysians working in Singapore claim that the Singapore dollars they earn are the hard-earned money. They leave home early for work and return home late at night. Their time is spent getting stuck at checkpoints and this is a daily event.

One of them works in Singapore in order to earn from the lucrative exchange rate of Singapore dollar of 1 to RM3. After work, he is a hawker at roadside in Johor Bharu until late at night.

Du Cheng Fu, 25, from Muar, works in a bread factory in Singapore. He is a hawker at night, selling “turnover pancakes” at Johor Bharu.

Du and his 26-year-old wife have two daughters aged four and two. The family rents a home in Taman Nusa Bestari 2.

At 3.30am Du wakes up to ride his motorcycle to Johor Bharu Sentral at 4am and then takes a bus to work in Singapore.

He works six days a week from 7am to 5pm. After returning to Johor Bharu, he is a hawker at 8pm. He sells “turnover pancakes” at a roadside of Taman Nusa Bestari 2 near shops till 11pm.

Having two jobs, Du’s situation was once uploaded onto Facebook and attracted some discussion.

Why does he hold two jobs, working extra hours? Isn’t his salary earned in Singapore dollars enough for him to live in Malaysia due to the attractive exchange rates?

Du’s decision of holding two jobs is to let the family have a better quality of life especially when the wife needs to look after the two children.

He takes a break every two weeks to return to Muar. Otherwise he would be selling “turnover pancakes” most of the nights.

He is worried about retrenchment in Singapore and starts a back-up plan.

Du is frank that working environment in Singapore is competitive. One is worried about being retrenched at any moment. He is willing to work harder when he is young by selling “turnover pancakes” at night to have a backup plan for himself.

Du started working in Singapore four years ago. From the initial salary of Singapore dollar $1,100 (RM2,750 then), he is now earning $1,700 ( RM5,270).

“After deducting rent, insurance, car instalments and others, RM2,700 was spent on basic expenses, this does not include grocery bills, milk powder and others. The balance is little.”

Du said when he first started working in Singapore, after paying all the expenses, he was left with RM600 in his pocket on the third day after drawing his salary.

“How does one live with RM600 a month? Even if I can starve, but my wife and children should not be starving.”

He said the incident has given him good insight. How would he handle if faced with such issue? Once he loses his job in Singapore, at least he still has a job in Malaysia.

Many are surprised by the fact that Malaysians working in Singapore are actually having two jobs.

Chen Jin Quan, 60, a prawn noodle seller who lives in Taman Nusa Bestari 2, is a regular customer of Du’s “turnover pancakes”.

Chen praises Du for his hard working and determination. He said it is not easy to commute to Singapore to work on a daily basis as one leaves home early and also land in traffic jam.

“Not many can actually still work at night. Therefore, I support him.”

Despite not having stable income, the additional income helps.

Du said his father is a hawker who sells “turnover pancakes” under a coconut tree in his home town, Muar. His father is quite famous and he also picked up the skills from his father.

“I am fortunate compared to many. I have skills that I can rely on to make some income.”

Du started the stall for about three months. Despite the small money he makes, it helps to pay bills.

When business is good, he can sell tens of “turnover pancakes”. When business is slow, it is not a surprise to only sell a piece of the “turnover pancakes”. But after a few months, on average, he has few hundred ringgit of additional income.

He said the few hundred ringgits may not be a lot of money but at least it helps the family to live better.

With the high standard of living in Malaysia, one finds it hard to keep up without a RM6,000 monthly salary.

Du said if he can earn to meet the living standard, he would not have gone to Singapore to work and subject to “a different perception” by Singaporeans.

“In the eyes of the Singaporeans, we are foreign labourers.”

If he is not working in Singapore, it would be impossible for him to support the family by working alone.

To him, without a monthly salary of RM6,000, one finds it hard to live in Malaysia.

For the family, Du would not complain. As long as he can support his family with a home and food, he is satisfied.

By having two jobs, he does not have time to spend with his children. Most Malaysians working in Singapore hope to work back home so that they can spend more time with the children.

Du says now what he wishes most is to have more time with his children.

Based on his daily routine of leaving home early to work and turn a hawker at night, children are in bed by the time he reaches home. He does not have a chance to even speak to them.

“If I work in Malaysia, at least I would not be so tired and have some time to spend with the children.”

Based on his current situation, Du said he is unable to quit his job in Singapore to work in Malaysia.

“I still need to raise a family and my business is still unstable,” he said.