Creating Employment For Youths
The Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) Programme recently caught world attention when its Chief Secretariat, Norashikin Ismail, shared the initiative at the United Nations Public Service Forum 2017 (UNPSF2017) from 22nd until 23rd June 2017. According to her, the SL1M programme has helped more than 120,000 young graduates to get jobs which helped to reduce the unemployment rate almost immediately.
SL1M was initiated under the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) on 1 June 2011 to cater to the unemployment among young graduates by enhancing their confidence level, skills and knowledge in the work sector through specific training. To date, the project has involved more than 300 local companies where the selection of participants and training are conducted by the companies themselves. While the companies are encouraged to assist graduates in getting jobs after the training, no job is actually guaranteed to the participants.
Indeed, this is one example of job creation by the government. Generally, in many traditions and religions, a ruler is responsible in governing the nation in this regard in accordance to a specific code of conduct. This is also stressed in Islam. In fact, Islam requires that the government shall be inclusive in governing which means that each person will have equal opportunity to feel safe and to earn for one’s living. Islam acknowledges the different capabilities and skills that an individual has. For that reason, no one shall be treated differently just because they are less educated or less fortunate compared to the others. In fact, the ruler has to encourage such a group to earn their own living via specific interventions.
In an economy, the country’s unemployment rate is always a factor when discussing employment in general. In the Malaysian economy, for example, the total unemployment rate since 2011 is considered moderate between 2.9 and 3.7. In fact, there have been increases for the past few years starting from 2015, from 2.9 to 3.1 and settled at 3.4 in 2016 and May 2017. On the other hand, 9.5% out of the total unemployment in 2014 was made up of young workers aged between 18–24 years old and this figure increased to 10.7 in 2015.
With regard to unemployment amongst youngsters specifically, the Bank Negara Malaysia Annual Report 2016 shows that the unemployment rate of tertiary educated youths in Malaysia is higher than those of non-tertiary educated. Such a trend does not only occur in Malaysia, but also in other ASEAN countries. One of the reasons for such a trend is that there are less jobs offered for high-skilled individuals.
Besides that, Malaysian employers continue to raise their concerns on the poor skills embraced by our young graduates either in their communication or work skills. The employers believe that young graduates need more practical training before joining the labour sector. This is where the SL1M training gives advantage to fresh graduates who enrol in its courses.
When the government introduced the SL1M programme, one of the objectives is to train young graduates under the participated companies’ supervision. In the programme, our tertiary educated youths also have the chance to secure jobs at most for a year at a minimum wage of RM1,000 which is on par as the stipulated Malaysian Minimum Wage rate. Such a programme will be able to enhance the confidence level of the youths upon joining the labour sector prior to what might have been a long period of unemployment after graduation. On top of that, the youths may learn how to fit themselves professionally in the sector as well as bear some acceptable risks at work.
Needless to say, even though we might address the unemployment rate at least for the fresh graduates upon their graduation early through SL1M, we cannot guarantee they may secure jobs after the training. Our youths need to market themselves, which is an important survival skill to secure any jobs that they want. If they enjoy a monthly allowance of RM1,000 in SL1M, they will find it is hard to earn the same amount or more in the real world without hard work.
This is because in general, Malaysia pays low wages in the labour sector compared to other countries. The No. 8 Strategy Paper under the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, for example, shows that in 2014, 77% of 10.3 million wage recipient workers received below RM3,000 per month. Fifty-five per cent out of the recipients also received income between RM1,000 to RM3,000 per month. This means that out of 10.3 million wage recipient workers, only 33% of them received more than RM3,000 per month despite the increasing number of young graduates every year.
With this reality, should our youngsters rely on working with the corporate sector or create jobs for themselves? Indeed, our youths have the capability to mobilise their skills and talents especially in the entrepreneurship sector. Therefore, our responsibility is to give them the support in terms of financial aids, opportunities, space and ease some procedures which can help them to survive. Since there are few jobs which are equivalent to the educational attainment offered in the market and low paying jobs remain one of the biggest challenges to youngsters, we believe entrepreneurship is one way to sort out the problems.
Unemployment among young graduates is indeed a challenge since we have to deal with low wages, skills and job creations in the market. SL1M may be only a good approach for a short-term period. In the long term, we also need to focus on more high-skilled job creations, correct the distortion in wages, encourage entrepreneurship, apply new technologies at work, expand the size of the economy and most importantly, continue training workers for the various industries as SL1M is doing now.