An estimated 2,000 Indian barbers in Malaysia face a crisis as the government decides that foreigners are not required to ply their trade in this sector.
In Penang, 50 of the 70 barber shops have closed down in the last six months.
Penang Indian Hairstylists Association committee member K. Selvakumaren told New Straits Times that the home ministry had informed the association that foreign workers would not be allowed to work in the sector.
"We are facing a serious problem. We hope the government, particularly, the human resources ministry, will help us out," he said.
Another member, M. Bani, said the same problem occurred in 2004 but was resolved with the intervention of Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president S. Samy Vellu.
"We do not want a time to come when Indian barber shops vanish from the scene. This used to be a thriving business and we want it to remain that way," he said.
The Indians argue that locals are not interested in becoming barbers.
Faced by global recession, Malaysian authorities have sought to restrict foreign workers in 'visible' trades like tourism where the country's image is involved.
They have also sought to restrict the working of Hindu and Buddhist priests at local shrines, reducing their intake and numbers.