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  • Writer's pictureKerk Chee Yee

What the "Nasi Lemak graduates" need is a turning point

What Tun Dr Mahathir said about graduates in Malaysia becoming Uber drivers and Nasi Lemak sellers tells us something about the economy state we are in right now.

It is of course not to be misunderstood that Uber drivers or nasi lemak sellers are jobs that no graduates should take up. But we are talking about a situation where graduates in Malaysia face difficulty in getting jobs that match their level of skills or academic level, hence are forced to take up jobs that require lower level of skills and pay lower salaries. When there are not enough job opportunities for the graduates, some of them were forced to work as Uber/Grab drivers or sell Nasi Lemak, and a dozens of other jobs that do not be fully utilise their skills and potentials.

The unemployment rate in Malaysia is 3.4%, while the unemployment rate for youths is a staggering 3 times of that figure. This means that 1 out of 10 Malaysian youths today is jobless. This of course has not included those who have resorted to becoming Uber drivers or selling Nasi Lemak, or those who have left Malaysia for jobs.

For those who are able to obtain jobs of their choice, they are being paid with low wages. Half of those aged between 18 - 35 years old are earning below RM1,600, and the average pay for the same group is around RM2,000. This explains why we see many young Uber / Grab drivers on the road after working hour. Becoming a Uber / Grab driver often becomes the second job for many youths to earn extra pocket money to put food on the table. There are plenty of youths who are forced to take up 2 to 3 jobs, work more than 16 hours a day just to make ends meet.

Perhaps what the Barisan Nasional government did not realise was that unemployment rate, mismatch of skills, low wages have got everything to do with government’s political will in seeking solution for Malaysians. We have heard kind suggestions from Barisan Nasional Ministers to eat home-cooked food, plant our own vegetables, and take up second job such as selling Nasi Lemak or driving Uber/Grab as a way to ease our financial difficulty. However, with the rising cost of living and government’s refusal to acknowledge our state of economy frustration, Malaysians can’t help but to ask “what is the government going to do for us in the long term?”.

Job opportunities for Malaysian youths - a top focus of Pakatan Harapan

We have been the victim of both economic turbulence in Malaysia and Barisan Nasional’s refusal to admit their weakness for some time now. What Malaysians need now is a turning point. Pakatan Harapan, in contrast to Barisan Nasional, has placed economic issues as one of the top priorities. For instance, out of the many, Pakatan Harapan Youth has proposed in its manifesto to create 1 million job opportunities for Malaysian youths and they include good quality jobs that pay the graduates adequately for what they deserve.

First and foremost, what must be done to bring Malaysia out of the depressed economy we face today, amongst others, includes a boost of market confidence and aggregate demand. When Malaysians are finding their wages’ real value diminishing, naturally spending patterns will be adjusted, causing a slump in economic activities amongst great number of Malaysians. Amongst others, Pakatan Harapan’s proposals to raise minimum wages from RM1,000 to RM1,500 and zero-rating of GST is an attempt to uplift economic activities, as well as to ease the financial burden of many Malaysian youths today.

Imagine half of the youths below 35 years old are earning below RM1,600. What they are earning today is simply not enough for even a modest lifestyle. While Pakatan Harapan can zeroise GST and stabilise petrol price, the wages must go up. This is to ensure a healthy purchasing power amongst the people. There must be jobs that can correctly match the level of skills of many of our young people today, especially the graduates. To achieve this, concurrent efforts will be executed in order to ensure sustainable and healthy development of various industries that will be able to provide good quality jobs to the youths. I foresee Malaysian youths to be employed for the skills that they can offer and maximise their potentials.

Youths have been the source of development in many great economies. One of youths’ talents is to imagine without fear, and their potentials to do so must not be curbed by government’s ignorance or incompetence.

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