Unemployment projections in Malaysia for 2009 paint a bleak picture. With figures touted to reach as high as six percent - translating to over 600,000 unemployed - there is a serious need to rethink the way in which the issue is addressed in a country where the rate rarely exceeded 3.5 percent in the past.
But the debate to be had must kick off with, first, a firm grasp of the circumstances that have led us to this worrying juncture. With 60 percent of the world already in recession, it is inevitable that substantial layoffs would occur with production reduced and plants shut down, especially in the manufacturing sector – 60 percent of manufacturing activity in Malaysia is export-oriented. Whilst our trade surplus remains healthy, the underlying concern is that reduced trade activity translates into higher unemployment numbers in Malaysia.
Measures to address the problem must fulfil the criteria of safeguarding the welfare of citizens – consistent with the Government's pledge to improve the social safety net for Malaysians – and helping the economy spend itself out of trouble. With particular regards to the latter, managing private sector confidence is key – stimulating domestic demand after all, requires more than simply Government carrying out the bulk of the spending. The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) proposal for the Human Resources Levy exemption to be granted to employers across industries should be seriously considered – such incentives would not merely help sustain private sector activity, it could also conceivably reduce the need for retrenchment.
Targeted action towards certain sectors with potential to provide jobs – whilst others are cutting back – is equally necessary to be proactive in addressing the unemployment issue. The services sector, for example, promises to post a relatively quick recovery; it would thus make sense to attempt channeling employment towards the services industry by way of retraining for workers who have lost their jobs, and among others, information-dissemination for those about to enter the already shrinking labour market.
The last point is of added significance, seeing as to how there will be thousands of fresh graduates seeking employment in the coming year. As it is, out of the job seekers registered with the Labour Department, 97.8 percent lie within the age bracket of 15 to 40 years. It would thus be fair to say that graduate unemployment – expected to be significantly more acute in 2009 – is a defining issue for the Malaysian youth segment. Tackling the problem would thus rightly require input and action from Youth NGOs and even the youth wings of political parties.
Positioning ourselves in the face of the worst global recession in decades necessitates bipartisan cooperation and discussion. I hope to see these at least partially achieved when I bring the matter up in Parliament during the next session starting February 16.
Source: Rembau Dot Net