By Raveen Jeyakumar
The government ought to create new job opportunities to mitigate the unemployment problem in society.
Malaysia produces about 220,000 graduates yearly, but only about 130,000 new jobs that require graduates are created in the economy each year.
This excess of supply over demand depresses the starting salaries of these fresh graduates. So they often cannot meet their financial obligations, such as study loan repayments and the high cost of living in urban areas.
This triggers frustration, despair and growing resentment among the youth against the government and the political system.
The Malaysian government should therefore invest and channel enough funds to create jobs by opening up new sectors and expanding work in existing sectors.
1. Increase the agricultural workforce
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In Malaysia, only 0.4 million hectares of the total eight million hectares of agricultural land are cultivated for the production of vegetables, fruits, fish and dairy products.
Instead, Malaysia depends heavily on foreign countries for its food supplies. So its food security is weak.
This highlights the urgent need to expand agricultural activities in the country. The government must encourage people in Malaysia, particularly the youth, to work in the agricultural sector. It can do this by integrating technology and modern techniques in agricultural activities to attract the youth.
The government must also ensure that enough land is made available and prioritised for agriculture. Such land must remain for agricultural use and not be passed to government-linked companies and private developers for commercial projects.
2. Processing waste to useful materials
The government is now transitioning to a more eco-friendly and green economy and administration. So it is time we use our domestic waste to generate energy and produce useful materials.
Organic waste can be processed into an energy source through the waste-to-energy process. It can also be processed into animal feed for livestock.
Plastic waste can be recycled to produce other plastic items (recycled plastic).
Invest in R&D activities to improve the waste processing industry, which can create new jobs and opportunities.
Allocate sufficient funds and resources to the relevant ministries and departments to set up facilities for waste processing nationwide.
Ensure that the operation of these facilities is contracted out to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), provided that locals make up 90% of the workforce.
3. Care services for the elderly
As Malaysia’s population ages, government must make elderly care services an important industry and expand such services throughout the country.
Provide these services as state-supported initiatives. Get social workers and medical workers to visit and help families with elderly members.
Consider starting more government-operated day centres for the elderly. Design state-supported social programmes for older adults that improve their quality of life.
In implementing the above steps, it is crucial that the government acts to:
- Ensure employers pay higher wages to allow workers to live with dignity
- Impose strict conditions and quotas on employers throughout the country so that they prioritise local workers in their workforce
- Enact policies to ensure that companies that incorporate artificial intelligence and automation must also provide job opportunities to locals who want to work
The use of machines to cut costs and generate greater profits should not jeopardise people’s fundamental right to earn a decent living through work.
Raveen Jeyakumar, an Ipoh-based Aliran volunteer, is a writer who is passionate about social and environmental issues. His work can be found at reform-the-system.com