PETALING JAYA: The first movement control order, to contain the Covid-19 pandemic last year, resulted in massive job losses as companies closed or struggled to stay afloat.
According to the Companies Commission of Malaysia, 9,675 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) shut down during the first phase of the MCO from March 18 to June 9 and by November, these number increased to 32,469 companies.
At the same time, the unemployment rate increased to 4.8% in November, with 764,400.
To mitigate the adverse economic effects, the government rolled out several stimulus packages and assistance programmes, among which was the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) under the Social Security Organisation (Socso).
The WSP, with allocations amounting to RM20.7bil, is credited with keeping 3.3 million people employed.
Under the third phase of the WSP, eligible employers received a wage subsidy of RM600 for up to 500 of their employees earning less than RM4,000 a month.
All employers operating under the ongoing MCO are eligible to apply, regardless of sectors.
The Star spoke to several micro businesses and SME owners, who credited the first and second phase of the WSP as being instrumental in preventing their businesses from folding and ensuring their employees kept their jobs.
Some are calling for the WSP 3.0 to be tailored to better aid those in the tourism industry, which was one of the hardest hit sectors.
Raymond Ong, 37, owner of RS Auto Parts Supply
“I’ve been facing a lot of challenges including cash flow and managing staff over the past few months.
Fortunately the Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP), under the Social Security Organisation (Socso), had eased some of my burden and kept my business afloat during the movement control order.
It also helped me retain five workers during this period.
I am thankful the government had come up with this initiative to help businesses like mine.”
Chong Boon Mee, from Harmoni Satria Motor Sdn Bhd
“It’s tough being in business during the MCO. I don’t have many customers but I’m also concerned about my staff.
I’ve been working as a secondhand car dealer for almost 22 years and this period had been the most challenging.
Fortunately, the government’s WSP has helped me continue employing my five workers, who also have families.
I hope the relevant authorities can find more ways to help us sustain our company until the pandemic is over.”
Mohammad Rizal Mohd Salim, 37, co-founder of Safar Global Trips
“The tourism industry has been badly affected since the first MCO was implemented last year, and we are among those struggling with almost no business or income.
But, the WSP, in a way, helped us keep our employees. The new WSP 3.0 should cover a higher percentage of employees’ salary, so those of us in the tourism industry can save more jobs until the pandemic is over.”
Kong Lay Ching, 43, hotel manager
“We managed to retain three workers under the WSP. In the coming months, we are anticipating the situation to worsen for the hotel industry with borders still closed and no overseas guests.
We hope the government can introduce more subsidies for hotels during this period. We also hope the RM600 subsidy for wages can be increased to RM1,200 per person, because we still need to bear the utility bills for our premises.”
Ong Bee Leng, 41, partner at Pusat Perkembangan Minda Champs kindergarten
“The WSP actually helped our business a lot during the MCO and the conditional MCO periods. We managed to retain a total of 10 staff from the four companies we owned. Although the WSP had been very helpful, we think other similar incentives should be introduced so that more young people can be hired.”
Woon Kwong Ming, 31, grocery store owner “The WSP is a very good initiative and it helped me pay the wages for three of my workers.
Covid-19 has badly affected businesses and the WSP is able to help many businesses.
To improve further, the government should consider increasing the subsidy to help businesses lower their operating cost.”