Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
It has been reported in the Bank Negara Annual Report 2016 that the National youth unemployment rate in Malaysia has reached more than three times the national unemployment rate of 3.1 percent, due to the slower growth in hiring.
Youth unemployment is not exclusive to Malaysia, it is one of the major problems currently faced by world economies. According to the Generation Stalled Report in 2017, almost one-third of Australian young people are unemployed or underemployed, the highest level in 40 years.
In Turkey, the number of young jobless Turks rose to 24 percent after the economy shrank in the third quarter of 2016. In South Korea, youth unemployment rose to a record high last year despite the Park Geun-hye administration’s efforts to help more young people secure jobs.
Youth unemployment has become a mass phenomenon which is potentially menacing for the stability of democratic societies in the medium and long run. It leads to social erosion and undermines the future prospects of individual careers.
In this respect, some European countries show extremely different performance in getting young people decent work. The relatively low youth unemployment rates in countries such as Austria and Germany point to the fact that a well-functioning system of vocational training could play a key role.
In January 2017, Germany’s unemployment rate declined to its lowest level in 26 years. Austria records consistent low levels of youth unemployment due its stronger economic development over the past decade than that of many other European countries.
The success of these countries to combat youth unemployment can be attributed to the coordination of government, federal, states and local authority policies that were engineered to create problem solving programmes such as the ‘Youth Guarantee’ Programme.
The ‘Youth Guarantee’ Programme is one of the most rapidly implemented programme to tackle youth unemployment. Each young person who wants to do an apprenticeship or take part in a training will be guaranteed such training if no vacant position is found.
The programme consists of a package of possible measures, such as outreach strategies to activate non-registered unemployed youths, individual action plans, routes for reentering education and second-chance education, guidance for entrepreneurship and self-employment strategies for young people, as well as wage and recruitment subsidies for employers.
The results are astounding. Three years on from when this programme took off, there are almost 1.5 million fewer young unemployed in the EU and 900,000 less young people not in employment, education and training.
A similar strategy should be employed in Malaysia that binds both federal and state efforts to curb youth unemployment regardless of partisan politics. Rural areas should be given special emphasis as rural youths migrate to urban cities in search of prosperity and ultimately become a statistic in unemployment. If rural employment can be improved with a needs based programme such as the aforementioned example, migration and disappointments can be reduced.
‘Very disturbing reality’
This particular scenario is also existent in my constituency of Hutan Melintang where labour supply has been reduced due to the closure of industries and companies in traditional sectors and to the lack of incentives for young people and companies to take up residence in the area. It is a very disturbing reality, and constitutes a serious economic, political and social problem in rural areas.
It is crucial that the state assemblyperson arrange solutions to attract and retain businesses in Hutan Melintang. Unfortunately, this is not happening in this constituency and leaves much to be desired.
As mentioned earlier, Youth unemployment is both a federal and state responsibility. Even though the capacity of a state representative might be limited in creating a major change, but efforts must be put forward to constitute solutions especially in rural areas.
More focus should be given to enhancing measures such as reducing the cost of business facilities, installation, and licensing, along with the reduction of tax for companies if they choose set up businesses in rural areas.
For my part, with the help of local NGOs in Hutan Melintang, we have organised Career Counselling Programmes for the youths in Hutan Melintang and provided career guidance in line with market demand. We have also taken steps to provide internships and apprenticeship for the youths in Hutan Melintang in collaboration with local companies there.
However, more needs to be done and I believe strong efforts from all stakeholders can ultimately bring the change needed.
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