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Focus, focus: Prioritise people’s future over political drama

Could we please ignore the 'distractions' and get down to serious work?

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By Jayanath Appudurai

In recent weeks, many were distracted by the KK Super Mart controversy, the pardon and house arrest issue, and the Kuala Kubu Bharu by-election sideshow.

Now that these episodes and their attendant shenanigans have subsided, let’s focus on the actual issues affecting the people.

Staring at us are three key issues with serious long-term intergenerational implications. We must address them as national priorities.

Children’s education

It is worrying that many children in Malaysia have low educational achievement compared to international standards. A World Bank report in April put it succinctly:

The problem starts early, with a significant portion of children lacking school readiness skills – leading to challenges in reading, writing, and mathematics throughout their schooling. By the age of 15, Malaysian students lag behind aspirational peers in reading, math, and science as measured by international assessments.

The implications for economic growth and development are self-evident.

Youth unemployment

The years of chronic unemployment, underemployment and unemployability are plain to see.

Compared to the average national unemployment rate of 3.5%, unemployment among youth (aged 15-30) hovers around 6.5-8.3%.

Of particular concern is the higher rate of 10.0-12.0% for the 15-24 age cohort.

Source: Department of Statistics Malaysia, Labour Force Survey Report 2023

The link between low educational attainment and unemployment needs no elaboration. This also has serious implications in the contest for the youth vote.

Greying folk

Over the decades, the ratio of older people (aged above 60) to the total population has steadily increased. These older people will make up 20% of the population in 2040.

Source: Department of Statistics Malaysia, Population and housing census of Malaysia 2020, population projections (revised), 2010-2040

Older people face a range of vulnerabilities, including a lack of income, health insecurity and the need for physical care.

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The implications of this ageing population need to be understood. Will the coverage provided by our current and future healthcare and social protection systems be adequate to provide for their needs?

Focus, focus, focus!

It really does not matter who forms the government – the “unity government”, Pakatan Harapan, Perikatan Nasional, Pas or whatever combination of these entities!

The three intergenerational issues are here to stay and will not go away.

We need to recognise and assess these issues and be sincere with our prescriptions.

Some ideas are already on the plate. A universal pension scheme for older adults without pensions, proposed by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), is one such idea.

We need to develop many more innovative solutions. But we need the will to want to deal with these societal issues impartially.

So regardless of our political leanings, we need to focus on long-term solutions for the sake of our children, our youth and our older people.

Could we please ignore the ‘distractions’ and get down to serious work?

Jayanath Appudurai belongs to Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM).

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Sham
Sham
22 Jun 2024 6.18pm

A great summary of the urgent issues.

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