Impact of Job Losses
23rd August 2021
The Movement Control Order 3.0 earlier this year has culminated in the White Flag Campaign where people publicly air their needs for food assistance. Although NGOs and individuals have risen to the occasion and responded speedily, many wonder how long this problem will continue. As reported by the media, many who require this assistance are families whose breadwinners have recently been laid off from work or are unable to continue their business.
The Department of Statistics (DOSM) reported that for May 2021, the number of unemployed persons stood at 728,100 as compared to 826,000 the previous year. While it may seem like an improvement, the national unemployment rate still stands at 4.5% as of May 2021 (latest available data), a rate not seen since the 1998 global economic recession. Understandably, this COVID-19 pandemic has been a big contributor to the rise of unemployment, with the various levels of movement control orders affecting industries and businesses, forcing employers to lay off workers, impose salary reductions, or work on contract-basis.
Given this statistical context, does it mean that the Federal Government’s economic recovery steps to boost employment through its PEMERKASA and PEMULIH strategies have failed? Or have they yet to deliver? And should not a more workable programme (food coupons, fixed weekly/monthly aid distribution, etc.) be designed to ensure that those who are in need of aid are not cut off suddenly until they get employed again? The sudden change in government will hopefully bring in new impetus to soften the economic impact among the unemployed.
TVET: Time for A Renewed Push
2nd August 2021
Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is one of the central components necessary in transforming the country’s economy into a high tech, Industrial Revolution 4.0 based economy. However, the march towards such modernisation has been fraught with challenges. For starters 25 per cent of all jobs in Malaysia are skill based, far lower than the 40 per cent in developed countries. Also, at its very base, only 10 to 15 per cent of secondary school students in Malaysia are opting for further education in TVET. In a webinar in December of last year, titled Budget 2021: 6 Billion Reasons to Disrupt TVET, industry speakers pointed to a strong need for streamlining and the importance of shifting TVET training to the private sector.
The webinar also discussed the much celebrated German model of TVET where a vast majority of training is hands on, in the field and paid for the training period. While the model proved to be effective in the German context, Daniel Bernbeck, CEO of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted that countries such as the United States and China overcame their TVET challenges by building up their own approach into a more demand driven, innovative model. The German model cannot be copied wholesale, as it is not a “plug and play” model. This is an excellent, though concerning point, as this makes the TVET mountain that Malaysia has to climb even steeper – the country will have to fix its already pressing issues while developing a model that will propel it to the next stage. Also discussed was the need for industry to be the one drafting TVET curriculum and not the government. They also lamented the dissolution of the TVET Commission which was consulting industries, and was empowered to craft policy. The speakers also opined that seven ministries each with their own syllabus and systems were inefficient and did not meet the needs of industry. Furthermore, the curriculum was archaic and outdated, taught by educators who are not in touch with contemporary industry knowledge and trends.
These perspectives by the industry should be taken seriously by the government as they are most directly involved with economic growth and know what they need. As such, proper and thorough consultation with them needs to be a cornerstone of any TVET policy. After all, it would be unwise not to leverage the expertise and experience of industry. This issue points to the need of a stakeholder consultation mechanism or platform similar to the previous TVET Commission, one that is empowered, especially from a policy perspective. And while there are calls by industry to place education and training solely in their hands, this should be examined carefully to ensure it is in line with TVET national policy goals and priorities. While there were interesting insights generated at the webinar, many also concluded that the implementation of remedies to the challenges to TVET in Malaysia would mean little without the political will to do what is necessary. That is the final piece of the puzzle.
What therefore can the immediate community or close family members do in addressing this issue? And what help and action can the authorities, both government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) offer in defending, protecting, assisting, and supporting these victims? Perhaps, a more concerted effort is needed to explain and create greater awareness to convince victims to come forward and tell their stories, and to make society stop remaining silent which indirectly protects the perpetrators.