KUALA LUMPUR: Unemployment is expected to rise next year as the government freezes new posts, the corporate sector slows down and the construction industry employs expatriates for high-paying jobs.
Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said two years ago, the unemployment rate was below 3%, compared with 3.5% now.
“The unemployment rate might still seem low, but even a 0.5% hike in a 14 million workforce would cause 70,000 Malaysians to be out of jobs.”
Ong said the number of jobless Malaysians could be higher as professionals go into business after failing to sustain jobs.
“Unemployment in absolute terms might be higher.”
He also warned that many sectors would slow down next year.
“Uncertainties are expected as more professionals might lose jobs or find it harder to get jobs.
“They might open small food stalls to make money,” said the former economics and policy science lecturer.
He said the government was the key employer but it would only replace retirees in the civil sector. “There won’t be any new posts”.
Chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa had said the government would continue the replacement intake of 20,000 to 25,000 every year.
In the construction sector, those who are involved in property development will see slower business as the property market slows down.
Even massive construction projects such the 37km Bandar Utama to Klang LRT3 may not result in more jobs for locals.
This was because low-end jobs would be given to foreign workers while high-end jobs would be filled by expatriates, he said.
Many employees in the banking sector will also be out of a job as banks consolidate their branches.
Ong predicted the number of people starting their own business will be on the rise after failure to land jobs.
“There will be massive underemployment, where for instance, a junior engineer might end up selling kuih.
“He is considered employed but he is not doing what he was trained for. This trend will be on the rise.”
He said such people would be considered employed but would have to live on irregular income.
“They will need new skills to survive.”
Fresh graduates should also be prepared for the downturn, but those who upskill their knowledge in computers could land a job, he said.
“Those who want higher pay will have to earn it with proven skills needed by the market. They are young; it is easier for them to learn a skill in coding or computer programming.”
He was referring to a recent JobStreet.com survey which showed fresh graduates wanted to be paid as much as RM6,500 for their first job.
He said even though it was unrealistic of them to expect such pay, they might achieve that if they were willing to learn new computer skills.
Ong was commenting on a recent report by the Railwaymen Union of Malaysia that 4,000 in Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) may lose their jobs.
The union said based on records, KTMB’s cargo losses stood at RM37.41 million in 2015.
The DAP MP said when oil prices are good the government could cover the losses but it was not able to help when it was facing financial constraints.
“This is why KTM workers feel under threat.”