PETALING JAYA: Regulation pertaining to paid internship programme is needed to address inequality faced by undergraduates, says former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
He said students were merely asking for a living allowance that would allow them to cover their core expenses while undergoing industrial training, and not demanding for a minimum wage of RM1,500.
“There were misunderstandings. The students are just asking for a living allowance.
“Imagine the underprivileged students from the rural areas that have to go to major cities for their internships.
“If they don’t go for the internship, the only option they have is to drop out or maybe live a life of poverty in the urban areas,” he said when contacted.
Syed Saddiq, who is also the MP of Muar, said a special Bill on the matter should be tabled in Parliament – which should also include a provision on the reasonable allowance for interns.
“We have a strong ground for it because at the moment most interns in Malaysia are required to work just like permanent employees.
“While we acknowledge that most companies do pay their interns, others simply treat the interns as free labour,” said Syed Saddiq.
He also proposed that the government introduce a tax break incentive to encourage private companies to hire interns and pay them accordingly.
Syed Saddiq, who is also a member of the Parliament Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Nation-Building, Human Resources and Education, said the proposal would be raised during the committee meeting today.
He said PSSC chairman Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah had also engaged with students to get their opinions regarding the allowance for interns.
Universiti Malaya’s final year student Rashifa Aljunied, who advocated for paid internships in her campus, went viral online last week.
Saifuddin, in a tweet replying to Rashifa, had expressed his intention to meet the student to discuss the matter.
“I hear you. As chair of the PSSC on (Nation-Building) Human Resources and Education, this morning (June 15) I received a memo on this matter from a student body.
“Plan to meet other students next week,” the Indera Mahkota MP tweeted.
TalentCorp, an agency under the Human Resources Ministry, has developed a programme called National Structured Internship Programme (MySIP) that provided companies registered with it double tax breaks if they hire interns.
“Through MySIP, employers who hire Malaysian full-time students from public, private and TVET institutions to undergo a structured internship programme endorsed by TalentCorp, will be eligible for double tax deduction incentive for expenses incurred on the interns under the programme – including allowance, logistics, data and communication and training,” said its chief executive officer Thomas Mathew.
He said that one of the requirements to register for the programme was to ensure that interns were paid a monthly allowance.
While the minimum monthly allowance requirement set by TalentCorp was up to RM600 depending on academic qualifications, its records showed that 65% of the employers were paying interns between RM800 and RM1,200 a month.
“The minimum amount is aimed at easing students’ pursuit and exploration of internship opportunities, and to welcome more active participation from employers and industries,” Mathew said.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said employers should have the discretion to decide on placement of interns at their companies and there was no need for a fixed wage for them.
Its president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said that while employers should not be required to pay interns as they were not covered by labour laws in the country, some still provided monthly allowance at their discretion to cover the interns’ expenses.
“The allowance may range from RM500 to RM1,800, depending on the company’s capacity to pay and the financial performance and capacity of the companies involved,” he said in a statement to The Star.He added that imposing a fixed wage for the interns would only drive smaller companies away from hiring students for industrial training.
According to the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), some employers are aware of the rising cost of living and have taken it into consideration when paying their interns.
FMM president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said that the allowance for interns was paid at the discretion of employers and that had been a general practice of most employers.
“The amount of allowance, however, would depend on the location and size of the company, as well as the ability of the employer.
“Some employers, especially those in the industry, also include meals or meal allowance on top of the internship allowance given to the students as a means to defray their meal costs while at work,” he said.
Soh also agreed that decisions on the payment and amount of allowance should be left to the discretion of the respective employers.