Human development deficit due to imbalance between rights and responsibilities

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A more self-reliant workforce would have adequate strength to oppose oppressive neoliberal economic systems by neutralising the power of Big Business, writes Ronald Benjamin.

As a human resources practioneer over the years, I have gone through disturbing moments of decision-making when I had to turn down candidates before or after interviews especially those who did not meet certain quality criteria that would fit into the organisational culture.

The tendency of some candidates to attend interviews without proper attire or grooming, their inability to express themselves well in English, and the lack of adequate professional knowledge especially among local graduates are the factors that make hiring difficult.

I have also discovered fake medical certificates obtained from government clinics. The contract of service of these workers had to be terminated after a domestic inquiry.

Lack of ownership among certain employees, even those in managerial capacity, towards their area of work is also a problem. It results in constant ‘firefighting’, instead of proactively looking for solutions to problems.

In a nutshell, there is deficit in human development in the Malaysian workforce that I see in the context of too much emphasis on ethnic rights, human rights or worker rights.

This unhealthy work culture has been constantly highlighted in the mass media, which have revealed a regressive culture among certain segments of the Malaysia workforce that has a direct impact on their socio-economic development.

Many employers are seeking foreign talent or those educated in foreign universities to fill the persistent disciplinary and talent void in the Malaysian work culture.

The Malaysian type of manager, their culture and style which reveals an authoritarian streak, is equally guilty of failing to provide a participatory work environment. This results in a failure to create an enviroinment that would motivate employees to take personal ownership of situations at the workplace.

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This goes back to a basic question, are our socio-economic activists and educators who are always speaking about rights aware – or do they choose to be unaware? – of this human development deficit? Do they take responsibilities to build up the capabilities of our Human Capital in equal measure as they emphasise rights?

The reality in the current globalise world is that trade unionism has declined, and the competitive advantage that workers could have would be their inner qualities, competent skills and entrepreneurial spirit.

A self-reliant workforce would have adequate strength to oppose oppressive neoliberal economic systems by neutralising the power of Big Business in the national economic landscape. The reality in Malaysia is the quality of human resources today is viewed so much through the lens of mere academic qualifications, ethnic preferences and rights. Little emphasis is given to cultivating talent, self respect and ownership that goes beyond ethnicity.

This does not augur well for the creation of a multi-ethnic self-reliant workforce that is rooted in solidarity and is able to stand on its own, even without the help of the corporate world.

We need to find an innovative solution to challenge the core of Malaysian cultural beliefs that impede progress. A rigid education system that is too much dependent on civil servants and regressive ethno-religious ideologues is the root cause of the decline in our education standards. This is compounded by a lack of integrity among institutions that make money, by providing fake documents.

We need to have the right balance of experienced and competent private professional practioneers to help the Malaysian workforce discern complexity and the reality in a given context. These practioneers will be able to share their experience of what it means to excel beyond the academic field and to be independent in a complex world dominated by multinational corporations.

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Professional practioneers, social activists and educationists should play a prominent role in building a strong cultural context to help the Malaysian workforce be self-reliant and in turn reduce the human development deficit in Malaysia.

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