Youths anxious about the future

As THE government gradually brings Covid-19 under control and the country enters the recovery movement control order (MCO) phase, how we deal with the health crisis matters.

Restrictions in movement, although necessary, devastated the finances of many individuals and businesses when the economy went into a stasis period for weeks.

Reports of imminent lay-offs and retrenchment began surfacing, with many sectors expected to be affected.

Adding to the fear was the projection by the Statistics Department that unemployment rate would rise between 3.5% and 5.5% this year.

Although the government has announced measures to address the issue, it remains to be seen if they will prove successful.

For many people below the age of 30, the job market looks bleak and those still employed, cling to their jobs more tightly than ever.

A friend related a conversation he had with elderly relatives, with whom he shared his worry over job security.

“My relatives say that I need not worry because I am still young and I can easily get a new job if I am retrenched.

“It made me frustrated because they dismissed my concerns.

“Just because I am young, it does not mean that I am not affected by this crisis.“I have to care for my parents, as both are no longer working and I am the sole breadwinner in the family, ” said the 29-year-old IT graduate.

Another friend concurred, saying that young people would be no less devastated in the event of a lay-off.

“The early 20s is a crucial period for us to cultivate a network of contacts and to grow our resume.

“This is a small window of opportunity for us to prepare ourselves for a stronger foothold in the job market once we enter our 30s.

“Losing our job at this point would be a tremendous setback, ” said the 27-year-old geology graduate.

Concerns over finances and career growth aside, youth unemployment may also have a social impact.

A former colleague, who only wanted to be known as Syazwani, said she had postponed her marriage plans to avoid taking on more commitments.

“Right now, my responsibility is towards my mother and childless aunt. I cannot afford to have a family and have my commitments divided.

“My worry is that as a woman, I feel like I am racing against the biological clock.

“I am not getting any younger and cannot keep postponing life’s milestones, ” said the 30-year-old.

Meanwhile, some young people are concerned about what the crisis recovery will mean for their future.

“As part of the measures to help lessen people’s financial burden, the government has allowed us to withdraw our EPF savings.

“However, that is our own money at the end of the day and a safety net for when we grow old. To tap into that means to tap into our retirement money.

“Will we have to extend our working life? Does this mean we may have to consider retiring in our 70s in order to make the same sum our parents did, inflation-adjusted?” questioned a friend who only wanted to be known as Luqman, 28.

One friend described retrenchment as an unpleasant experience and that it scarred her emotionally.

“The company adopted the ‘last in, first out’ approach.

“And since I was younger than my former co-workers, it was assumed that I had less to lose from being retrenched.

“I feel this approach should never be used because it fails to take into account our productivity.

“Just because I am younger, it does not mean I am not just as good at my job. Quality is not determined by age, ” said the 30-year-old IT executive.

The sentiments expressed by these youths are not new.

In many countries, generational resentment among millennials is simmering.

Many think that they have been unfairly labelled and their views are thought to be less important.

“It has caused many to disengage from politics because they lost their trust in the system, ” said one friend.

This has serious ramifications on a healthy democracy, as youths feel that the system has failed them.

If their concerns are not addressed, these people will grow old being bitter and end up paying the price for the careless actions of the preceding generation.

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