MEF, MTUC should embrace cultural, structural reforms

Ronald Benjamin


LETTER | The Association for Community and Dialogue (ACID) welcomes the news that was widely reported in the media that as Malaysians usher in the new job year, job prospects are looking better for fresh graduates with ample openings in small and medium-size industries. SME Association president Micheal Khang said that fresh graduates should seek employment with SMEs instead of big corporations to gain experience first before moving forward.

This collaborates with another media report that millennials now make up most of the workforce in small and medium enterprises or businesses (SMEs/SMBs) in Malaysia, according to LinkedIn. To be exact, 76 percent of SMB employees are those aged between 23 and 38, according to the professional networking platform. Such millennials, also known as "Gen Y-ers", outnumber the other generations.

Gen X workers, aged between 39 and 54, make up 15 percent of staff in such companies, while seven percent are from Gen Z, those aged below 23 and have just graduated from college. The remaining two percent are baby boomers, aged 55 and above. According to observers, the large percentage of such young talents in SMBs may require companies to adapt to different work cultures. This includes “gig” work, which is doing tasks or working for a number of organisations instead of being fully employed by one company.

The statistics above indicate that industrial and employee relations are moving in a new landscape and trajectory which requires a new mindset among employers and those who represent them such as the Malaysian Employers Federation. In order to attract millennials, there is a critical need to develop cultures in organisations that are purposeful, horizontal and egalitarian and where solidarity, teamwork and empowerment become a new culture instead of centralised control that depicts a master-servant relationship.

The unions represented by MTUC should adapt to this new trend and understand the dynamics of success in the digital world that is not merely based on workers' rights or goodwill of employers, but the importance of responsibility in acquiring knowledge and skills in the new economy so that the bargaining process would be equal and balanced, leading to win-win solutions between employers and unions.

There is also a need for workers to be prepared for futuristic structural changes where data-rich markets would ultimately replace firms. In this context, workers could enrich themselves by making informed decisions based on comprehensive data.

Therefore, unless employers and unions embrace cultural and structural reforms in line with the aspirations of millennials in the digital age, we could experience another wave of brain drain that will delay the prospects of Malaysia becoming a developed nation.

The writer is secretary, Association for Community and Dialogue.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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