Creating employment for youths

SKIM Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) recently caught the world’s attention when its secretariat head Norashi­kin Ismail shared the initiative at the United Nations Public Service Forum 2017 in June.

According to her, the SL1M programme has helped more than 120,000 young graduates to get jobs, which helped to reduce the unemployment rate almost immediately.

SL1M was initiated under the Economic Planning Unit in June 2011 to tackle unemployment among young graduates by enhan­cing their confidence level, skills and knowledge in the work sector through specific training.

To date, the project has involved more than 300 local companies which select and train participants themselves. While the companies are encouraged to assist graduates in getting jobs after the training, no job is actually guaranteed.

This is one example of job creation by the Government. In many traditions and religions, a ruler is responsible in governing the nation in this regard, in accordance with a specific code of conduct. This is also stressed in Islam.

In fact, Islam requires that the government shall be inclusive in governing, which means that each person will have equal opportunity to feel safe and to earn a living.

Islam acknowledges the different capabilities and skills that an individual has. No one shall be treated differently just because they are less educated or less fortunate than other­s. In fact, the ruler has to encourage such groups to earn their own living via specific interventions.

In the Malaysian economy, the total unemployment rate since 2011 is considered moderate – between 2.9% and 3.7%. On the other hand, 9.5% out of the total unemployment in 2014 was made up of young workers aged between 18 and 24 years and this figure increased to 10.7% in 2015.

The Bank Negara Malaysia Annual Report 2016 shows that the unemployment rate of tertiary educated youths in Malaysia is higher than those of non-tertiary educated. Such a trend does not only occur in Malaysia, but also in other Asean countries.

One of the reasons for such a trend is that there are fewer jobs offered for high-skilled individuals.

Besides that, Malaysian employers continue to raise concerns about the poor communication and work skills of young graduates.

Employers believe young gra­duates need more practical training before joining the labour sector. This is where SL1M training gives an advantage to fresh graduates who enrol in its courses.

When the Government introduced the SL1M programme, one of the objectives was to train young graduates under the participating companies’ supervision.

In the programme, our tertiary educated youths also have the chance to secure jobs, at most for a year, at a minimum wage of RM1,000, which is on par with the stipulated Malaysian minimum wage rate.

Such a programme will be able to enhance the confidence level of youths upon joining the labour sector. They may also learn how to fit themselves professionally into the sector, as well as how to bear some acceptable risks at work.

Even though we might address the unemployment rate, at least for fresh graduates, upon their graduation through SL1M, we cannot gua­rantee they will secure jobs after the training.

Our youths need to market themselves, which is an important survival skill to secure any jobs that they want. If they enjoy a monthly allowance of RM1,000 in SL1M, they will find it is hard to earn the same amount or more in the real world without hard work.

This is because in general, Malaysia pays low wages in the labour sector compared to other countries.

The No. 8 Strategy Paper under the 11th Malaysia Plan, for example, shows that in 2014, 77% of 10.3 million wage recipient workers received below RM3,000 per month.

Fifty-five per cent out of the recipients also received income between RM1,000 and RM3,000 per month. This means that out of 10.3 million wage recipient workers, only 33% received more than RM3,000 per month despite the increasing number of young gra­duates every year.

With this reality, should our youngsters rely on working with the corporate sector or create jobs for themselves? Indeed, our youths have the capability to mobilise their skills and talents, especially in the entrepreneurship sector.

Therefore, our responsibility is to give them support in terms of financial aid, opportunities and space, and to ease some procedures which can help them to survive.

Since there are few jobs which are equivalent to the educational attainment offered in the market, and since low-paying jobs remain one of the biggest challenges for youngsters, we believe entrepreneurship is one way to sort out the problem.

Unemployment among young graduates is indeed a challenge since we have to deal with low wages, low skills and low job creation in the market. SL1M may only be a good approach for a short-term period.

In the long term, we also need to focus on more high-skilled job creation, correct the distortion in wages, encourage entrepreneurship, apply new technologies at work, expand the size of the economy and most importantly, continue training workers for the various industries as SL1M is doing now.

  • Nur Syahidah Abdul Jalil is a research officer with Ikim’s Centre for Economics and Social Studies. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
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