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Worrying unemployment, underemployment among youths

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Many of our young people have no choice but to end up as a statistic of brain drain or youth unemployment or underemployment, observes Steven Sim.

Mat Rempits rounded up - Photograph: The Star
Mat Rempits rounded up – Photograph: The Star

12 August was International Youth Day. This year, the UN-designated theme is “Youth migration: Moving development forward”, a recognition of the fact that young people form one of largest group of migrants all over the world.

As such, youth, whether migrants or otherwise face, unprecedented challenges in a world where social mobilisation happens at fast speed and large scale. One of the biggest challenges is in the area of jobs.

In Malaysia, young Malaysians are being alienated from the prosperity boasted by the government. While general unemployment is low, about 3-4 per cent, the picture is bleak for youth.

Unemployment for youth is 10.3 per cent, compared to that of neighbouring countries such as Thailand (2.8 per cent), Singapore (6.7 per cent), Japan (8.0 per cent) and South Korea (10.1 per cent). In other words, one in every 10 young persons in Malaysia aged 15-24 is jobless.

According to a recent report by the Finance Ministry, from January to August 2011, a whopping 90.1 per cent or 308,371 persons among job seekers seeking government assistance to look for jobs are young people aged 15-29.

The World Bank reported that one in every ten Malaysians with a tertiary education has migrated to an OECD country to look for better opportunities. This is twice the average rate of brain drain in the world. Something is very wrong.

However the picture is even gloomier when we look at underemployment in our own country. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), “underemployment” refers to a mismatch between career aspiration, skills and expectations of a person to his or her actual job. For example, someone with a university degree but is only able to get a job meant for STPM leavers. Or an engineer forced to accept the job of a salesperson because of the inability to get any jobs in his or her area of training. Or someone having to work for lower pay and in less than desirable work conditions.

In Malaysia, even by our government’s conservative definition, youth underemployment is high, about 15.1 per cent. However, on further analysis, the problem is much more acute. For example, 21 per cent of degree holders who are employed are working in jobs which do not require a degree. And furthermore, 75,800 graduates are unemployed.

In other words, our young people are forced between being a number in the statistics of brain drain and youth unemployment or underemployment. 

I have previously raised these issues in the last parliamentary sitting, but so far, the government has yet to show any serious commitment in resolving them – as if youth’s problems are trivial compared to other “major” issues facing the country.

An unemployed youth today cannot be better off in ten years’ time. And by then, he or she is expected to play leading roles in society. I have outlined some of the critical measures that the government should take.

Any solutions by the government should be systemic at the policy level to have a more lasting impact, and not merely by organising career fairs (like our Youth Minister is fond of doing).

Steven Sim is the Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam.

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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wan fatimah
wan fatimah
11 Feb 2016 12.46pm

where can I get the source for underemployment rate?

15 Aug 2013 12.22pm

I went to the newly opened Sam’s Groceria in Gurney Paragon Penang, a high-end hypermarket allegedly linked (to a prominent person). It is mostly staffed with foreign labours. While when I went to Giant In Farlim, a foreign-owned (Jardine Matheson) own grocery store, I see many local staffs.

Even Mahathir, a so-called Malay nationalist, prefers more unemployed Mat Rempits to run around??

Tony Chew
Tony Chew
15 Aug 2013 10.35am

The problem will continue to exist and turn even worse in the near future. Examine the system in which the country’s leaders are appointed, from Government positions to critical ones in the country’s various institutions. Examine the qualifications and experiences of those in power and positions to their portfolios and responsibilities. Cannot be seen but question those in power and position in Government as to their real intentions in sitting in their chairs and comfortable offices. Don’t for one second think that the Government is not aware of the situation and causes. it’s just that the Government does not care. Those who are in power and position in Government are making hay while the sun shines and we all know who such people are. Sadly it is their own kind that are hurt most. The (minorities) have come through fire and hail the last four decades of pure discrimination to become an even stronger people that will survive no matter what. Meanwhile the streets will see more and more jaguh kampung motor cyclists. Remembering an advertisement of old and applied to the current situation of majority… Read more »

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