LETTER | Youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb that is waiting to explode.
Murray Hunter in his recently published article highlighted the issue of hidden youth unemployment. He estimated that youth unemployment to be around 15-18 percent, as opposed to official figure of 10.9 percent.
This excludes a huge number of youths who are underemployed (such as those working as cashiers and e-hailing drivers).
In its election manifesto, Pakatan Harapan pledged a special commitment for youths, and high on the rank is to ensure more job opportunities and commensurate salary. This special commitment is within the promise to create one million quality jobs.
This figure seems daunting to achieve. However, with strong political will, the government can accomplish this.
Given the high rate of unemployment among youth, the government should consider playing the role as ‘temporary employers’ for these graduates.
Temporary employment by the government, while being short-term in nature, should include an array of training programmes that would better equip them to seek permanent employment afterwards.
By doing this, the government does not only help to alleviate the youth unemployment problem, but also contribute towards the fulfilment of its manifesto to create one million quality jobs. This would be a win-win situation for the government as well as the youth.
There are multiple areas that the government could leverage on to achieve the above initiatives, such as areas that were already mentioned in Buku Harapan, like the following:
- Build one million affordable housing.
- Focus on the renewable energy sector. Pledged to reduce the use of coal, reduce 40 percent carbon emission by 2020, and to increase renewable energy generation to 20 percent.
- Add 10,000 more public buses nationwide. It would be better if the government facilitates and explores the process of manufacturing 10,000 buses locally instead of importing the buses.
- Improve access and quality of medical services. This will require significant investment in building new facilities and procuring new equipment.
- Facilitate access to modern agricultural machinery and technology. This will entice millennials to be involved in agriculture.
- Provide childcare centres at workplaces.
By fulfilling these promises, the government will create a huge number of employment opportunities that would benefit the youth from various disciplines.
Although these promises require a significant amount of investment from the government, the resultant economic multiplier from the projects will be large enough to justify the investment sum.
Besides, the economic benefit from this initiative would be far greater than the government plan to acquire toll roads for example.
Concern may arise on the execution of the initiative, as the government working environment is perceived as one of the worst places to develop talent, at least on a mass level.
This can be addressed by getting GLCs with specific key performance indicators to fulfil as key drivers.
For example, the initiative on renewable energy sector could be driven by Petronas and/or Tenaga Nasional Berhad, one million affordable houses driven by Khazanah Nasional Bhd or Perbadanan Nasional Bhd, and 10,000 buses by Prasarana.
These corporations with good performance-driven work culture can hopefully ensure the initiatives and programmes to be successful.
Youths are one of the major backbones for national development. Youth in their prime age will be one of the major contributors to economic activity.
However, without timely intervention by the government to address the issue of youth unemployment and underemployment, the huge potential will go to waste.
The problem of low to zero income levels among youth will only worsen if combined with other economic issues, such as student loan obligations, inflated property prices, increasing cost of living, the need to buy car due to limited access to public transport, and increasing cost of childcare.
It is safe to say that one of the key solutions to address the increasing costs is by increasing the level of income.
The government must take a proactive approach to tackle this problem before it spirals into structural problem that is much harder to crack.
A huge number of youths voted for Pakatan Harapan on May 9, 2018 because Harapan offered them something that has been lacking from their lives – hope.
Investment in the youth today is an investment for the country’s tomorrow.
The Institute for Research & Development of Policy (IRDP) recently published its own study on unemployment and underemployment among Malaysian youth graduate, which can be accessed here.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.