Malaysiakini Letter

No jobs for our varsity graduates?

Steven Sim Chee Keong  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The latest Labour Force Survey Report 2016 is referred.

The report clearly shows that only 27.5 percent of those who are working in Malaysia have tertiary education. If excluding migrant workers at that level, the percentage for Malaysians is even lower at 26.7 percent.

That means, almost three quarter of workers in Malaysia either have no formal education, or only attained Form 5 at the highest.

It must be noted that having a tertiary education is defined as “those whose highest level of education is above Form 5”.

If we scope down even further, then only 12.4 percent of our workers possess a university degree (Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD).

On the other hand, more than a third of unemployed persons in Malaysia (33.6 percent) have tertiary education.

In 2013, the government responding to my question on underemployment in Parliament said that 21 percent of our graduates are working in jobs which do not require any tertiary education.

What do all these numbers mean?

Firstly, jobs for university graduates are very few in Malaysia, thus, secondly, many of our university graduates are unemployed, and, thirdly some of our graduates had to take up jobs which do not require any university degree at all.

In summary, in Malaysia, the higher one studies, the less likely one can find a job.

High-income nation without jobs for graduates

This is very odd considering how the government is aiming to be a high-income nation by 2020.

Are we going to achieve high-income nation status without jobs for graduates?

If read together with the also recently released Salaries & Wages Survey Report 2016, the median monthly salary for those with tertiary education (RM3,274) is more than double those with secondary education (RM1,600).

In fact between 2015 and 2016, jobs for those with secondary education increased significantly by 2.4 percent compared to jobs for those with tertiary education at 0.4 percent.

This corroborated with data from Bank Negara itself in its 2016 Annual Report, “[d]espite the workforce increasingly becoming more educated, job creation in the Malaysian economy has remained concentrated in the low and mid-skilled jobs...”

All the talk by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) about Malaysia becoming a high-income nation in three years’ time, even if we are by then, on paper, who gains at whose expense?


STEVEN SIM CHEE KEONG is the MP for Bukit Mertajam, spokesperson for the DAP Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources and director, Penang Institute.

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