KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has the highest number of unemployed people in the country, says Human Resources Minister V Sivakumar.
He said some 29% or 169,800 people were jobless in the state, out of the total 588,700 unemployed nationwide.
"The unemployment rate in Sabah reached 7.7% in the first quarter of this year and the rate is also more than double the 3.5% for the whole country,” he said when opening the state-level Labour Convention here Monday (Aug 21).
"However, the percentage of unemployment in Sabah showed a decrease compared with 9.1% in the first quarter of 2022 following the Covid-19 pandemic economic recovery," Sivakumar said.
Earlier in his speech, he expressed hope for Sabah’s labour issues to be more effectively handled with the setting up of the Sabah Labour Advisory Council in June.
“On June 14, the Sabah Cabinet together with the Federal Government had agreed to set up the council to better address issues relating to labour in the state,” he said.
Sivakumar said this was an important platform involving three parties – employer, employee and government – and it serves to provide the space and opportunity for all three agencies to sit and talk about Sabah’s labour issues.
He said with Sabah’s unique labour issues and conditions, the methods to address any problems also have to be different from their counterparts in Peninsular Malaysia.
He said employers in Sabah were mainly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), so it was difficult for them to give higher wages as demanded by many workers.
Sivakumar said the fact that employees in Sabah comprised not only locals but foreigners with various documents such as the IMM13 (for Filipino refugees), Kad Burung-Burung, stateless, and even illegal immigrants, only made the overall situation more challenging.
“That is why we hope this council will serve its purpose here in Sabah,” he said.
He said the issue of low salaries must be addressed, among other matters, or else Sabah will see its dependency on foreign workers increasing with locals opting to leave the state in search of greener pastures.